Research Ethics Roundup: Ethics of a Radical Transplant, Increased Success Rates in Clinical Trials, and More

This week’s Research Ethics Roundup examines four topics tied to clinical research: rising clinical trial success rates, a divisive surgery in development, poor diversity numbers in research subject participation, and the current landscape of animal species used in research.

More Clinical Trials are Succeeding for the First Time in Years: In this STAT News article, Ed Silverman reports an increase in the success of drug trials in recent years. From 2012 to 2014, more than 11% of tested compounds cleared the clinical trial process. Experts say this change may be explained by increased care taken in R&D decision-making, resulting in better resource allocation, but they also note that success rates “may be slightly inflated” by regulations that clear the path for certain drugs, such as those designed for rare diseases.

120808-O-ZZ999-003 SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (Aug. 8, 2012) HOPE Worldwide volunteer Dr. Cornelia Haner, left, and Capt. William Brunner perform surgery together as a informational exchange aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during Pacific Partnership 2012. Pacific Partnership, an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission now in its seventh year, brings together U.S. military personnel, host and partner nations, non-government organizations and international agencies to build stronger relationships and develop disaster response capabilities throughout the Asia-Pacific region. (Photo by Kristopher Radder/Released)

Doctor’s Plan for Full-Body Transplants Raises Doubts Even in Daring China: In this piece from the New York Times, Didi Kirsten Tatlow reports on the development of a radical transplant that would place a patient’s head on a new body. Dr. Ren Xiaoping, the Chinese orthopedic surgeon developing the procedure, has attempted the procedure on mice, which have survived up to one day after surgery. Skeptics argue the very attempt to develop this procedure raises major biomedical ethics concerns.

Why are Health Studies so White?: In this article, Natalie Jacewicz of The Atlantic discusses the low level of diversity in medical research. Some researchers believe that there is a lack of diversity because minorities are suspicious of clinical research due to incidents like the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study. However, other researchers argue that low participant diversity is also the result of weak outreach efforts that limit inclusivity.

Rodent193px-Guinea_Pig_eating_apples Remain Most Popular Animal Model in 2016: Elizabeth Doughman of ALN Magazine reports on changes in the usage of certain animal models in 2016. Given low cost and fast reproduction rates, rats, mice, and guinea pigs are still used in the majority of labs (91%). Amphibians and fish are being used more frequently, and both farm animals and non-human primates are being used less.