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.

Stephen Hawking condemns animal rights movement

British physicist Stephen Hawking
recently denounced animal rights extremists bent on banning the use of
animals in medical experimentation. Hawking author of the best selling
A Brief History of Time, attacked the animal rights movement in
comments before a meeting of the British Association of Science.

Andrew Blake, director of the UK-based
group Seriously Ill for Medical Research, also appeared before the gathering
of scientists to denounce animal rights extremists, saying, “Medical
progress is being threatened by the extreme tactics of those who are seeking
to abolish animal research.”

Both men’s comments were occasioned
by the recent controversy over protests by UK activists against an animal
breeding farm in Oxfordshire. The establishment, |Hill Grove| farm, breeds
cats specifically to be used for animal experiments. The cats are certified
to be free of common feline viruses that might disrupt or distort medical
research. British Association of Science president Colin Blakemore, for
example, studies the cats to find clues to the development of the cerebral
cortex. Blakemore is currently developing a new imaging system for analyzing
the brain that he hopes will later be modified for use in human beings,
possibly greatly enhancing our understanding of how the brain works.

For his efforts, animal rights
activists have rewarded Blakemore with two letter bombs, packages containing
razor blades, and assorted threats over the last 11 years. Activists have
engaged in an unrelenting campaign of harassment against Hill Grove involving
everything from car bombs to rock throwing that has destroyed 80 percent
of the glass panes in the house where |Hill Grove|’s proprietors live.


UK’s Hawking condemns animal rights extremists. Patricia Reaney, Reuters,
Sept. 7, 1998.

Hawking defends tests on animals. Daily Telegraph,
Sept. 13, 1998.