Patricia Wolff of New West Research recently posted an e-mail to AR-NEWS about animal research conducted at the John Hopkins School of Medicine which Wolff headlined, “Painful, Worthless Animal Experiment.” In fact, while the experiment was, of necessity, painful, it was far from worthless.
The study involved research into whether or not a soy-based diet can reduce pain and inflammation, and was the result of a chance observation by John Hopkins researchers while collaborating with an Israeli researcher on sabbatical in this country.
The Israeli researcher had bred a strain of rats for use in studying nerve injury pain. Some of those rats were sent to the United States. But when he began his experiments in the United States, the rats did not experience as much pain as did his mice back in Israel. After eliminating a number of factors, it turned out that the two sets of rats had been fed different diets. The rats in the United States had been fed a soy-based diet.
John Hopkins researcher Jill Tall and her colleagues set out to discover if the soy-based diet was indeed responsible for the diminished pain. So they took 20 rats, and fed 10 of them a dairy protein diet and the other 10 a soy based diet. Then the rats were randomly injected with either a placebo or an inflammatory solution. The rats who received the inflammatory solution and were on the soy-based diet experienced significantly less inflammation than the rats fed the dairy protein diet.
The rats on a soy-based diet also exhibited a much higher pain tolerance than did the rats on the dairy protein diet.
This is obviously a small, preliminary study but will lead to further studies. Currently Tall and her colleagues are looking in detail at the soy protein trying to get a better idea of what might component might be helping to relieve pain.
Many people seem to think that such pain research is an unjustifiable use of animals. But Tall is a research fellow in anesthesiology and critical care who specializes in pain experienced by cancer patients. The reality is that the advent of safe, reliable anesthetics relied heavily on animal research (anesthetic techniques which are also used to minimize the pain of animals during medical research). Continued progress on relieving pain will also rely on animal research which, by its very nature, unfortunately involves intentionally inflicting pain on animals.
Wolff had it half right — such research is painful, but hardly worthless.
Soy diet eases pain, animal study finds. Nicolle Charbonneau, HealthScoutNews, March 15, 2002.