Medical research project defended
Rabbit tissue used in experiments by group in DkIT
DkIT President Denis Cummins has defended the presence of the Smooth Muscle Research Centre on campus, even though its work 'necessarily involves the use of animal tissues'.
Mr Cummins adds that the research the company carries out was of 'key strategic importance to Ireland and has the potential to create significant commercial spin off locally and nationally.'
Figures released from the Department of Agriculture under Freedom of Information show that between September 2005 and November 2008 the Smooth Muscle centre imported 1,000 New Zealand white rabbits and 70 mice from an undisclosed source in the north to use in tests.
It is estimated that Smooth Muscle Research Centre at the Regional Development Centre spent up to 120,000 buying the animals for tests.
According to their own published research, Smooth Muscle say the rabbits are put down humanely before their bladders and other body parts are taken from them and tested on.
The project has been based at the Regional Development Centre (RDC) at the Dublin Road campus since it moved from Queen's University Belfast in 2005.
The laboratory is part-funded by the government and is part of a € 1.2 million DkIT research commitment made in 2005.
In September, the SM Centre secured funding under the government's Strand I Technological Sector Research Grant ( TSRG) to the tune of an estimated
138,000 for three postgrad reseachers who will work there for two years.
The centre's presence at DkIT is supported by Mr Cummins. He said it was right the work, which 'necessarily involves the use of animal tissues', was publicly funded.
He said: 'The outcome of their research has the potential to improve public health and it is therefore appropriate that they receive public funding. Their research is funded from a combination of national and international public funds and charities'.
Smooth Muscle says it aims to further study the function of smooth muscle in humans. Treatments for urinary tract infections, erection problems and cardiovascular disease are at the top of their animal testing agenda.
The project claims to be the biggest group of physiology researchers in Ireland and Britain.
But a leading animal rights organisation now wants the Smooth Muscle (SM) research project to be shut down.
Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) chief, John Carmody, said the revelations were 'outrageous' and claimed that nonanimal testing methods were 'cheaper, faster and more effective' than 'archaic' animal tests.