Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – June 26, 2015

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By: Amy Kullas, Ph.D.

Public Health Policy: Organ donation

State policies have had little success on increasing organ donation

There is an extreme shortage of transplantable solid organs in the United States, which poses a considerable public health challenge. Presently, an estimated 125,000 patients require an organ transplant and of these patients, almost 80,000 remain on active waitlists for these organs nationally. Unfortunately more than 6,000 of these patients are expected to die this year while waiting for a transplant.

Since 2010, all states and the District of Columbia have implemented at least two donation-related policies. These policies varied from dedicated funds for donor recruitment activities to paid leave after donation to tax incentives. Unfortunately, many of these polices (with the exception of revenue policies) have had “no robust, significant association with either donation rates or number of transplants.” The revenue policies have people donate to a “protected state fund” which is used to fund activities to promote organ donation. These policies correlated with a modest “5.3% in the absolute number of transplants.” This brings up an interesting question and proposition: should individuals be financially compensated for donating an organ?(Chatterjee, et al, JAMA Internal Medicine)

Humans, Climate Change and Animal Extinction

The sixth mass extinction is among us. Is there anything left to do?

[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” said Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Ehrlich and his co-authors warn that this “extinction threatens humanity’s existence” and that soon we will pass the point-of-no-return. Ehrlich further says, “There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead.” The overall consensus among scientists that the current extinctions rates have reached levels that have not been encountered since the dinosaurs’ downfall, approximately 65 million years ago.

As the human population continues to increase at an almost exponential rate, the laundry list of how humans are brutalizing Mother Earth is also increasing. Some of which include:

  1. Clearing the land for farming, then clearing the farmland for housing, etc.
  2. Introduction of invasive species
  3. Record high carbon emissions driving global warming and ocean acidification
  4. Toxins that leach into water supplies and can poison fragile bionetworks

But is there anything left for humanity to do? It is a complex ‘yes.’ The authors write, “Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species, and to alleviate pressures on their populations — notably habitat loss, over-exploitation for economic gain and climate change.” (Rob Jordan, Stanford Report)

Animal Rights and Biomedical Research

Captive chimps to be categorized as an endangered species

On June 12, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it is classifying captive chimpanzees (approximately 1750) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The new designation will give 700+ chimps in U.S. research laboratories, in addition to those in zoos and in ‘entertainment’, the same protection as their counterparts in the wild. Bottom line, biomedical research involving chimpanzees is going to dramatically change when the classification is implemented on September 14. USFWS will start requiring a permit for doing scientific research on captive chimps, along with their sale and import.

Biomedical research involving chimpanzees had already significantly decreased since 2013 when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) pledged it would retire the majority of its captive chimps, leaving only 50 animals available for potential projects. Yet, only 66 chimps have officially been retired since June 2013. These retired chimps are transitioning to sanctuaries.

John VandeBerg, the former director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, highlights how this decision will affect biomedical research, such as the development of vital vaccines. VandeBurg gives the grim forecast “There will be a lot of people who die who would not have died.” (Sara Reardon, Nature and David Grimm, Science)

New Science Policy Blog!

National Institutes of Health Office of Science Policy launches new blog

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Science Policy (OSP) has launched a new blog “Under the Poliscope: Bringing Science Policy Into Focus.” The blog will showcase some of the activities of the OSP as well as focusing on science policy matters in a general context and emerging issues of interest to the life science and biomedical communities.

Have an interesting science policy link?  Share it in the comments!

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

June 26, 2015 at 9:00 am

One Response

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  1. […] U.S. biomedical research on chimpanzees come to an end?  Follow-up from post on June 26, 2015: ZERO labs have applied for a […]


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