I am very disturbed to learn that the University of Montana in Missoula is planning to incorporate large animal research at its Neural Injury Center. Decades of work with animal models of spinal cord and traumatic brain injury have failed consistently to produce cures for people and there is no scientific basis whatsoever to expect that large animal models will change that.
Human-based research – through ethically conducted clinical studies, or by using human cells and tissues in 3D organ cultures for basic research – is the superior and relevant path to effective cures and treatments for devastating conditions related to neural injury.
The National Institutes of Health affirmed a desire to move away from animal research stating: “Petri dish and animal models often fail to provide good ways to mimic disease or predict how drugs will work in humans, resulting in much wasted time and money while patients wait for therapies. To address that challenge, NIH, DARPA, and FDA are collaborating to develop 3D platforms engineered to support living human tissues and cells, called tissue chips or organs-on-chips.” [NIH-Wide Strategic Plan, page 22].
The University of Montana has an important opportunity in reshaping the Neural Injury Center to create a renowned center of excellence based on human-relevant research that could enhance your reputation, bolster enrollment, and most importantly, lead to meaningful treatments for people with neural injuries.