PETA pleads with NIH to stop funding for animal study, calls sleep experiment 'cruel and horrific'

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has reached out not only to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with a plea, but to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as well, asking him to help stop a planned research study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which it claims involves cruelty to animals.

The study, intended to gather information about age-related cognitive decline, involves disrupting the sleep of aged marmosets, which are small, long-tailed South American monkeys.

“As the governor of the state with the largest number of older Americans, [DeSantis] is in a unique position to condemn — before they begin — planned ‘aging’ experiments on tiny marmoset monkeys,” PETA articulated in an email to Fox News Digital about its outreach.

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“PETA has obtained documents showing that [a research team] is going to be waking the monkeys every 15 minutes all night long by blaring loud noise at them,” the email continued.

In the letter to DeSantis, which was shown exclusively to Fox News Digital, Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department, described the study as “horrific.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reached out to the National Institutes of Health about a planned study to take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (shown above, left). The study will disrupt the sleep of aged marmosets in an attempt to learn more about age-related cognitive decline. PETA sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida as well, hoping that he might step in as the governor of a state with “the largest number of older Americans.”  (iStock)

“Keeping a monkey from sleeping — considered a form of torture in humans that can ultimately result in death — won’t mimic insomnia in people,” she wrote. 

“This proposed experiment is so cruel that it’s classified by the university as what’s called a ‘Column E’ study — meaning it causes distress and pain without any relief.”

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The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is led by Agnès Lacreuse, a professor at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, and will be conducted at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to records on the NIH website.

Letter to Gov. DeSantis from PETA

PETA sent this letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asking for his help in stopping a planned study to take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It says the Sunshine State has over 412,000 PETA members and supporters in Florida. (PETA)

PETA sent a second, more detailed letter to the NIH.

“The proposed experiments involve causing nonhuman primates irreversible harm for experiments that offer little to no new scientifically valuable knowledge or human benefit,” stated the letter, which is signed by Katherine V. Roe, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department.

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Roe urged the NIH to “consider discontinuing funding for these extremely invasive experiments so that those resources can be directed toward research that could actually help our ever-growing aging population.”

Marmoset in cage

The study, intended to gather information about age-related cognitive decline, involves disrupting the sleep of aged marmosets, which are small, long-tailed South American monkeys. (iStock)

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Roe of PETA acknowledged that “improving the lives of the aging population in the U.S. is of ever-increasing importance and deserves serious attention from the scientific community.”

She also stated, however, “It is appalling that the NIH is wasting taxpayer funds waking marmosets up night after night in experiments that are not only cruel and unnecessary, but have no chance of improving human health.”

Roe suggested that “better studies can and have been done with human volunteers.”

PETA HQ

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) corporate headquarters building in Norfolk, Virginia, in May 2023.  (iStock)

“The NIH and the Wisconsin National Primate Center should be ashamed of themselves for subjecting these monkeys to maximum pain experiments under the guise of meaningful science,” she added.

University defends the study’s safety, importance

Michelle Ciucci, faculty director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Animal Program and professor of surgery, told Fox News Digital that researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Massachusetts-Amherst are collaborating on a study of Alzheimer’s disease

“They are focusing on the role [that] poor sleep plays in this debilitating disorder that often results in deadly complications,” she said.

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Their goal, she said, is to develop a new way to study Alzheimer’s.  

“To better understand and combat human diseases like Alzheimer’s, researchers must turn to animals to mimic complex human biology,” Ciucci said. 

Marmosets

“Nonhuman primates like marmosets share similar features of their biology with humans — in particular, their brains — and offer opportunities to study the causes of Alzheimer’s and potential treatments,” a faculty director and researcher told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

“Nonhuman primates like marmosets share similar features of their biology with humans — in particular, their brains — and offer opportunities to study the causes of Alzheimer’s and potential treatments.”

In this NIH-funded pilot study, researchers plan to disrupt the sleep of adult marmosets, a primate species that is often used in brain studies, noted Ciucci. 

“To better understand and combat human diseases like Alzheimer’s, researchers must turn to animals to mimic complex human biology.”

“Other scientists have discovered connections between disrupted sleep and conditions including dementia and Alzheimer’s, but have not yet established poor sleep as a cause of those disorders,” she said.

During the course of the study, a small group of the animals will be awakened from sleep several times over the course of one night, Ciucci said.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The study will be conducted at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to NIH records. (iStock)

In later phases, they will be awakened over the course of three nights in a row. 

“The animals, attended to by specially trained veterinarians in carefully managed conditions, will be awakened by sound — short tones played at about the same volume as a normal conversation or an alarm clock,” she said. “The sound will be loud enough to wake the animals but not scare them.”

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The researchers will track the animals’ behavior, cognitive skills and other “biological indicators” to determine whether the sleep disruptions result in cognitive impairment and biochemical changes similar to those seen in human Alzheimer’s patients, the researcher told Fox News Digital.

As far as why the study is classified as “Category E,” Ciucci said it’s possible that the sleep disruptions “may cause discomfort that cannot be addressed with typical methods like medication.”

Older woman with insomnia

It would be “unethical and difficult” to use humans in a study to explore sleep’s role in the development of a disease like Alzheimer’s, researchers noted. (iStock)

“Providing medications or other means of relief would interfere with the validity of the study and its interpretations,” she said.

It would be “unethical and difficult” to use humans in a study to explore sleep’s role in the development of a disease like Alzheimer’s, the researcher noted.

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“Until scientists understand the causes and development of Alzheimer’s in a way that helps them study more treatments in humans, studying animal models of the disease remains necessary to researchers, patient advocacy organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association, the public and experts at federal agencies — including the National Institutes of Health, which vetted and funded the marmoset sleep study because they consider it promising and important to public health,” she added.

Fox News Digital reached out to both Gov. DeSantis’ office and to the NIH requesting additional comment.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews/health.



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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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