Anti-animal research argument fails logic test

As a member of the biomedical research field, I would like to say a few words about the lecture on Feb. 18 against the use of animals in research by Dr. Ray Greek, a former anesthesiologist.
Greek believes all animal research is useless because he can name “examples of animal testing that failed to make the mark.” That is the most ridiculous logic I have ever heard.
Contrary to what Greek may want you to believe, there is plenty of animal research that has “made the mark” and given us concrete benefits. One such example is the use of dogs in cardiac research. They have contributed a tremendous wealth of information, including heart surgery techniques, artificial valve replacements and the development of pacemakers. Of course, any animal research must be followed by human clinical research. It is dangerous, not to mention unethical, to jump directly from concept to human research.
An early pioneer of heart surgery was Dr. Dwight Harken, a U.S. Army surgeon. He wanted to be able to remove shrapnel lodged in the heart of wounded soldiers. To leave it in was extremely dangerous, but to operate was almost surely fatal. Harken tried to develop a technique to operate on the heart using animals. On his first try, all 14 animal subjects died. By his third try, only two out of 14 died. He tried the technique on humans. All of his human patients survived. Animal research was absolutely critical to his success.
The Minnesota Daily reported, “Dr. Ray Greek believes that human volunteers are more accurate as medical research subjects than animals.” Is it ethical to try an untested technique on humans right away? Would it have been ethical for Harken to offer those wounded soldiers a choice: Leave the shrapnel in and if it doesn’t kill you, your heart will remain damaged for life, or I can operate with this new but untested technique and you might be able to recover but I have no idea of your chances?
Can you imagine all of his human patients dying? Would you, as a patient, volunteer for such an experiment if you heard that none of the first patients survived? Do you think any new surgical techniques would have developed if all human subjects died on the first try? It was the use of animals that allowed Harken to develop safe heart surgery techniques and to minimize the loss of human life. Animal research exists to protect humans. Like it or not, that is the truth.
Albert Nakano is a graduate student incell biology and neuroanatomy.