I am shocked to learn that the Boston Children’s Hospital is conducting experiments on rats and mice to test botulinum B toxin in the lab of Dr. Min Dong. The LD50 test, conducted to estimate the amount of toxin needed to kill animals, is barbaric and outdated. Animals die slowly by suffocation and/or because they cannot consume food and water. Furthermore, your lab dissected pregnant rats to culture neuronal cells from embryos, rather than use cell lines that are already available to detect botulinum B activity.
There are alternatives to harming and killing animals for detecting botulinum activity, such as cell-based assays. It is vitally important for all labs to utilize or develop alternative methods to animals which have far greater human relevance and are also much more ethical.
Cell-based methods for botulinum neurotoxin A have been available for nearly a decade. If adequate non-animal methods are not available, then it is the responsibility of the laboratory to develop or refine such assays rather than continue using brutal techniques that torture and kill animals. [Front Pharmacol. 2017; 8: 796. PMC5684488].
These studies are even more shocking in that they are completely gratuitous. There is already an approved botulinum type B drug for cervical dystonia. The incremental advantage from engineering a putatively more effective version is miniscule and certainly disproportionate with the amount of suffering caused.
I urge the Boston Children’s Hospital to end botulinum toxin studies on animals and instruct its labs to utilize more up-to-date, non-animal methods.