November 21, 2003
The Daily, University of Washington, Seattle
Chen Dong, the UW assistant professor of immunology who was suspended by the University this summer after reports of animal-testing violations, said the infractions happened because of miscommunications between him and the committee that governs animal testing.
The June suspension occurred after Dong published an unapproved study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation claiming he received approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The study has been retracted from the publication.
In other violations, Dong cut off the tips of laboratory mice tails without administering anesthesia. He violated other rules by conducting tests not approved by the IACUC.
“I acknowledge that there was misunderstanding on my part caused by miscommunication with the IACUC,” said Dong via e-mail. “In some instances, we were under the impression that experiments had been approved by the IACUC before performance, but (were) subsequently told by IACUC that they were not.”
The IACUC maintains that expectations are communicated clearly.
“We are pretty clear about what we expect,” said Susanna Cunningham IACUC chairwoman. “There are clearly defined rules that researchers must follow.”
Dong acknowledged that some experiments were performed in a manner not approved by the animal-care committee.
“There were others involving situations where lab members performed an experiment that was not described in the animal protocol, or where conditions of the experiment deviated from the described protocol,” said Dong.
Under direct supervision of a senior faculty member, Dong is allowed to use animals in his laboratory research. The arrangement was approved by the IACUC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to Dong.
His suspension will be up for a review in about a year, according to UW Medicine spokesman LG Blanchard.
UW animal-treatment rules follow federal regulations and are monitored by such organizations as the NIH and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For example, the practice of “tailing” — cutting the tip of a mouse tail for tissue sampling — is allowed under some circumstances, according to the IACUC.
However, Dong violated rules by tailing mice without giving them anesthesia.
Restricting food to encourage weight loss in animals is also allowed however, Dong has been reprimanded for performing such studies without University approval.
“There was no intention from my lab and myself to violate IACUC rules
and regulations, or to compromise animal welfare,” said Dong.
Dong studies the causes of human autoimmune disease, such as arthritis,
diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Copyright © 2003, The Daily, University of Washington, Seattle