Research Ethics Roundup: New restrictions on the research use of animals in Italy, NIH considers validating key results, and more

by Maeve Luthin, JD, Professional Development Manager

In recent days, much has been happening in the research world, both within the US and abroad. Travel around the world from the comfort of your own desk with this edition of Research Ethics Roundup!

Detachment: How Can Scientists Act Ethically When They Are Studying the Victims of Tragedy, such as the Romanian Orphans? Investigators detail how they constructed the ethical parameters and experimental design of the controversial Bucharest Early Intervention Project, a randomized controlled trial that compares the physical, psychological, and cognitive development of orphaned Romanian children placed in foster care with those placed in institutional care.

Italian Parliament Approves Sweeping Restrictions to Use of Research Animals: The Italian parliament approved legislation that puts extreme restrictions on the use of nonhuman primates, dogs, and cats in research; it also forbids the use of animals in research areas such as xenotransplantation. The European Union (EU) may challenge these measures, as they contradict a 2010 EU directive that covers the protection of animals for scientific purposes.

NIH Mulls Rules for Validating Key Results: Senior National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials are considering adding a reproducibility requirement to certain grant applications for foundational projects that are likely to lead to clinical trials. Such verification may be performed by independent laboratories. Also under consideration is a proposal to bring greater scrutiny to the peer review process.

‘Informatics’ Helps Doctors Unlock Medical Mysteries in Mounds of Data: Biomedical informatics allows investigators to analyze and organize digital data sets, creating a standardized pool of knowledge that researchers can mine in their efforts to diagnose, understand, and cure diseases. Informatics professionals use traditional quantitative analyses alongside such tools as predictive modeling in their efforts to develop the data in meaningful ways.


Apes Need Vaccines, Too: John VandeBerg, the director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center argues that NIH’s recent decision to retire most chimpanzees from research will effectively halt the development of vaccines that may save wild chimpanzees and gorillas from extinction. High percentages of the wild great ape population die from such diseases as the Ebola virus, chimpanzee AIDS, and human respiratory illnesses.

How to Cure a Bubble Boy: Small clinical trials for new gene therapies have begun in the United States, a decade after research stopped due to the link between the treatment and leukemia. Researchers have developed innovative ways to deliver and install genes without replicating cancer cells, and subjects enrolled in small pilot studies in the US, England, and Italy have so far shown no signs of cancer.