Research

University defends using greyhounds for heart transplant study

Tuesday, 13 Sep 2016


Research criticised for cutting off oxygen to greyhounds and removing their hearts has had a valuable impact on heart transplant technology, Monash University says.

The study carried out by researchers based at the University and the Alfred hospital cut off oxygen to the greyhounds and removed the hearts for temporary preservation before they were transplanted into another dog.

But according to Humane Research Australia the hearts of dogs have major anatomical and genetic differences to humans, rendering them “inappropriate” for studying human heart function and human disease.

“One must seriously question whether using canine hearts to test the viability of these perfusion methods and transplantation success has any relevance whatsoever to human heart transplantation” the organisation wrote in a case study of the research published on its website.

However, Monash University noted that an independent ethics committee had approved the research on the premise that any discomfort to the animals would be absolutely minimal, there were no other existing research alternatives, and the research was critically important.

“Importantly, at no time were the animals subject to pain, they were under deep anaesthetic and unconscious for the entire procedure.  The animals were at no stage woken up.  The research has had a very valuable impact on heart transplant technology,” they said in a statement.

“Monash understands that the outcomes of this research will have a valuable influence on the 100 Australians – and thousands of people in the world – currently facing life-saving surgery. Tragically, around 20 per cent of patients on the waiting list for heart transplants die.”

The statement also noted that the research was undertaken three years ago and preceded recent events in NSW in relation to the Greyhound industry.  Monash has not used dogs in medical research for over 12 months, it added.

The paper was published in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation: A novel Combination Technique of Cold Crystalloid Perfusion But Not Cold Storage Facilitates Transplantation of Canine Hearts Donated After Circulatory Death – Cold crystalloid perfusion for DCD heart preservation.” It can be accessed here.  

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