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US researchers defend animal testing

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WASHINGTON – US researchers defended animal testing, telling a small group at one of the biggest science conferences in the United States that not doing animal research would be unethical and cost human lives.

The researchers, who are or have been involved in animal research, told a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that testing on animals has led to “dramatic developments in research that have improved and affected the quality of human life.”

“To not do animal testing would mean that we would not be able to bring treatments and interventions and cures in a timely way. And what that means is people would die,” Stuart Zola of Emory University, which is home to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, told AFP after the symposium.

Treatments for diseases such as diabetes and polio were made possible through animal research, the researchers said, and animals are currently being used in hepatitis-, HIV- and stem cell-related research, among others.

But animal rights activists continue to bring pressure on laboratories that use animals to develop drugs and vaccines, urging them to stop the practice and use other means to develop the next wonder drug, treatment or cure.

Animal rights activists also insist they will never use medications developed through animal testing, but the researchers said they probably already have done.

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“I get a lot of emails from animal rights activists, and one of them said, ‘I have hepatitis C, and if you discover any drugs using chimpanzees that help hepatitis C patients, I’m not going to take them,'” John Vandenberg of the Southwest National Primate Research Center in Texas told AFP.

“I didn’t communicate back to him that if he’s taking any drug whatsoever for hepatitis C, it was developed with chimpanzees. There’s this ignorance in the world as to where these drugs come from, where vaccines come from,” he said.

The researchers also argued that animal research in the United States is covered by a bevy of rules and regulations to ensure that the animals used in testing are treated humanely.

“It is quite dramatically regulated,” said Zola.

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Institutions that receive federal funding have to have an “animal care and use committee that reviews every protocol that uses even a single rodent,” said Zola.

That protocol is then reviewed by another panel, which includes veterinarians, experts in medicine, and a representative of the public, and only when everyone has signed off on the protocol can testing proceed.

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Accelerating exoplanet discovery using chemical fingerprints of stars

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Stars are born when huge clouds of dust and gas collapse in on themselves and ignite. These clouds are made up of raw elements, like oxygen and titanium, and each cloud has a unique composition that imprints on the star. And within the stellar afterbirth – from the material that didn’t find its way into the star – planets are formed.

Finding planets orbiting distant stars, or exoplanets, is difficult. There are tried and true methods that involve using large telescopes to detect these tiny objects. But I’ve developed a faster and more powerful strategy for planet hunting that is based on the chemistry of the star. I am a planetary astrophysicist. Admittedly, this is a title that I made up because I wanted something that actually described what I do. I study the elements within stars, their patterns, and how they are connected to planets.

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Biodiversity helps coral reefs thrive – and could be part of strategies to save them

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Coral reefs are home to so many species that they often are called “the rainforests of the seas.” Today they face a daunting range of threats, including ocean warming and acidification, overfishing and pollution. Worldwide, more than one-third of all coral species are at risk of extinction.

I am one of many scientists who are studying corals to find ways of helping them survive and recover. As a recent report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine shows, researchers are exploring many different strategies. Some, such as managed breeding to make corals more tolerant of stresses, are already being developed at small scales. Others, such as moving corals to colonize new areas, have not been tested yet.

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This irrational self-deception is what prevents many economists from embracing a Green New Deal

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Dutch economist Servaas Storm, co- author of a widely-read 2018 study on climate change, “Why Green Growth is an Illusion,” talks to the Institute for New Economic Thinking about where we are today.

Lynn Parramore: In 2018, you and your colleague Enno Schröder warned that economists promoting “green growth” are fostering illusions. Why can’t we have economic growth and development without destroying the planet?

Servaas Storm: In our work, Enno Schröder and I look at the historical record on economic growth around the world, along with human energy use and the resulting CO2 emissions. Then we construct a growth path for the global economy during the period 2015-2050. Our model path is based on optimistic, but still feasible, assumptions concerning future energy efficiency improvements and reductions in carbon emissions.

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