Mice or Cerebral Palsy Children: You Decide

Most people are aware that botulinum toxin (botox) is increasingly used for cosmetic purposes around the world. This has led to some protests by animal rights group because every batch of botox is tested on mice using an LD50 test to determine its potency. Because botulinum toxin is potentially deadly to human beings and each batch is of different toxicity, the LD50 test with mice is the only way to ensure that human beings receive a safe dose of botox.

Botox has a number of clinical uses beyond simply cosmetic, however. It is being used, for example, to treat muscle spasticity in the arms and hands of children with cerebral palsy.

In people with cerebral palsy, the brain sends abnormal messages to the muscles in the arms and legs which causes them to become too tense (spastic). This inhibits movement and makes it difficult for affected individuals to do common activities such as getting dressed or brushing teeth.

Since 1998, Wake Forest University research L. Andrew Koman has used botox to treat muscle spasticity. He recently reported on a study in which he injected 73 cerebral palsy patients with either botox or a placebo. Patients receiving the botox injection showed a three fold improvement in functional ability compared to those who received the placebo. The botox injections cause the muscles to relax, improving the ability of those with the disease to dress themselves and accomplish other tasks.

Interestingly, according to a Wake Forest University press release on using botox as a treatment,

Results vary from patient to patient depending on the severity of the disease. In addition, many of the children need fewer shots over time, are able to lengthen the time between injections, and even stop the injections completely, Koman said.

“Many of our patients come back into the office asking for additional injections because they are thrilled with the results,” he said. “Once the muscles have relaxed, patients can undergo therapy to strengthen weak muscles. Botox injections work very well in conjunction with other treatments.”

Of course there will always remain animal rights activists like Bill Maher or Ingrid Newkirk who will maintain that killing a few mice to allow children with cerebral palsy to improve their daily functioning is just not a tradeoff worth making.


Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist use botox to treat CP. Press Release, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, May 1, 2004.

Animal Aid and Others Call for Boycott of Botox

Animal rights groups in the UK recently discovered that every batch of Botox — the anti-wrinkle treatment that uses the botulinum toxin — is tested on mice to ensure its safety. UK animal rights group Animal Aid is calling for a boycott of Botox until the manufacturer switches to non-animal testing.

According to Animal Aid,

Thousands of mice are being poisoned to death to test the latest cosmetic craze: ‘Botox’. In barbaric experiments known as LD50 toxicity tests – supposedly outlawed by the government in 1999 – the animals are injected with the toxin and suffer symptoms including impaired vision, paralysis of the body, and paralysis of the diaphragm, which leads to death by suffocation.

Botulinum toxin, of course, is fatal to human beings so ensuring that human beings are only injected with enough to paralyze muscles rather than cause more serious problems is essential for ensuring the treatment’s safety.

Companies that manufacture botox assure this safety by using an LD50 test. Since botox batches will vary in potency, an LD50 test is used to determine what the correct dosage level for each batch is. In fact, botox is packaged in vials of 100 mouse units, with each mouse unit being the dosage need to kill 50 percent of mice when injected in animals.

Animal Aid believes such testing should be illegal under Great Britain’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics. But botox has a number of clinical uses as well, and what Great Britain has done is given manufacturer Dysport a blanket clearance to do animal testing of botox — since the use of botox for cosmetics purposes is still off-label in the UK, it hasn’t been forced to consider the conflict created with its cosmetics testing ban.


Outcry over mice that die for every batch of Botox. Sean Poulter, Daily Mail (London), January 27, 2004.

Botox and Animal Experiments. Animal Aid, January 2004.