Many animal studies “poor quality”

Now is an opportune time to ensure experimental animal research in rheumatology meets the highest standards of scientific rigour, Australian researchers say.

In an analysis of 41 in vivo studies from the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases and Arthritis and Rheumatism rheumatologists Kimberley Ting, Catherine Hill and Sam Whittle found a large number lacked the key principles of study design.

For instance more than one-third of the papers did not clearly state a hypothesis or objectives statement.

Randomization was unclear or not reported in 83% of the papers, only 12% reported any methodological limitations, and 10% reported adverse events.

And a statement regarding ethics approval was not reported in 22% of the papers.

Poor quality animal studies may prevent the successful translation of research from bench to bedside and risk the unethical use of animals in research that does not advance scientific knowledge, the study authors  wrote in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases. 

The researchers say they first became aware of the issue a couple of years ago in neurology and stroke literature and realised that the experimental rheumatology literature had never been assessed in this way.

“It is an opportune time to tackle this issue in rheumatology: we are in an unprecedented era of rapid drug discovery in rheumatology and there is an increasing impetus in academic and commercial spheres to continue to develop new therapeutic molecules,” co-author Sam Whittle told the limbic. 

Despite the great successes in developing novel therapies for inflammatory arthritis and osteoporosis in the last couple of decades, there were areas where drug development had been disappointing, for example osteoarthritis and connective tissue diseases, he said.

The Animal Research Reporting of in vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines were a good starting point for improving reporting standards in the literature, he said.  

But this ought to be part of a larger conversation about registration, reporting and publication of animal research in medicine, he added. 

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