Together with many other scientific societies EAN opposes the “Stop vivisection” – Opposition to the European Citizen’s Initiative to ban animal research. This initiative was submitted in March 2015 and requests to abrogate the directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the council of 22 September 2010 and ban all animal research.
EAN supports the existing directive 2010/63/EU that provides for ethical and justified use of animals for biomedical research while allowing the progress in scientific advances that has significantly benefited both human and veterinarian care.
EAN’s letter to the Members of the European Parliament can be found below.
Honorable President and Members of the European Parliament,
The European Citizens’ Initiative “Stop Vivisection” has been submitted to the European Commission on March 3d, 2015 and calls for “the European Commission to abrogate directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and to present a new proposal that does away with animal experimentation”.
The European Academy of Neurology, a pan-European Society of Neurology, representing more than 30.000 neurologists from across Europe, wishes to express its strong opposition to this proposal.
Stopping animal research would have a catastrophic effect on the development of the medical sciences, and in particular the Neurosciences. In the past few years there have been extraordinary advances in our understanding of the pathology and molecular mechanisms involved in neurological diseases that have already resulted in the development of new treatments that have in turn radically improved patient outcome, reduced suffering and extended life with improved quality.
The “European’s Citizens’ Initiative – Stop Vivisection (http://www.stopvivisection.eu) states that animal models have no value for human species and provides a series of references supporting this statement.
This assertion is ill-founded at best and misleading at worst.
However, we wish to emphasise that we fully support the existing directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purpose, providing ethical rules and limiting the use of animals for biomedical research, when it is possible to reach similar results by the use of alternatives such as in silico models, in vitro cells, etc. Indeed, the scientific community has enthusiastically supported the use of skin cell derived inducible pluripotential stem cells for the development and study of differentiated neurons to help reduce the need for animal models.
Nevertheless, we consider translation from animal models to the patient the basis for improving our knowledge on brain function and dysfunction, in normal and pathological conditions, as well as a crucial step in the translation of new drugs from the laboratory bench to man.
One of the most important aims of neuroscience research is to understand the human brain and in particular the mechanisms associated with higher cognitive function. The brain is very complex and animal models offer a means to study its complexity, how brain cells migrate into the cortex during embryological development, organizing into layers, crucial for normal brain function and forming connections with other cells in the different parts of the central and peripheral nervous system, mechanisms that are the basis of motion and memory.
Such research could not be carried out in cells, nor could it be done in computers or with the new neuroimaging techniques in humans, but only in animal models. Animal models for many neurological diseases support the translational research to develop new therapies. The discoveries leading to the 2014 and many other Nobel prices in medicine would not have been possible without ethically justified animal experiments.
The EAN represents all aspects of neurology and neuroscience. The examples where animal models have enabled the development of new treatments for humans are innumerable. For instance, the treatment of multiple sclerosis has been revolutionized by the new immunomodulating drugs that can now slow the progression or even prevent worsening of the disease, and the treatment with deep brain stimulation of Parkinson’s disease helping 100.000 of patients has changed the course of this disease. This work was dependent on the use of animal models and research to understand the role of the immune system in the disease. Similar advances have been made possible in the fields of stroke, Huntington’s disease and regarding many inborn errors of metabolism that do not only cause childhood onset neurological disorders including neuromuscular disease but also affect adults.
Perhaps the most important medical challenge facing the people of Europe at this moment is the spectrum of the neurodegenerative diseases. The aging population of Europe and the anticipated suffering and burden of care for the elderly is unprecedented. Primary amongst these diseases are those of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron diseases. Animal models are essential for this research, both to understand their causes and to develop new treatments. These animal models are based on the corresponding human genetic causes and mechanisms of disease progression and offer great insight into possible new treatments.
In conclusion, although animal research has many limitations for translation to humans, and animal models may not always reliably reproduce the human condition, they provide a unique window into nervous system research and have generated important directions for future human research. The involvement of clinicians in basic animal research will improve the extent to which results are relevant to human neuroscience.
For all these reason, the European Academy of Neurology, its Board, its Scientific Committee, on behalf of all its members and on behalf of our patients and the people that care for them, invite the European Commission to oppose the “ Stop Vivisection Citizens’ initiative to ban research in animal models.
Signed by: Günther Deuschl (EAN President), Franz Fazekas (EAN Vice President) and Antonio Federico (Chair, EAN Scientific Committee) on behalf of the EAN Board and EAN Scientific Committee.
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