Thursday, August 9, 2007

Help, kind of

This post contains some explanation of part of an animal experiment. If you are sensitive to such things, you should stop now.

I believe in animals in research because they are the best model we have, at the moment. While their biological and immunological systems are not identical to ours, they are often very similar and can give us important information about how our human systems work and how our systems would respond to any given set of conditions.

That being said, they should also be treated as humanely as possible. There are some procedures that must be done to give us the information we need that are inevitably painful for the animal and probably cause some lingering pain or discomfort or reactions. My goal, as a researcher, is to minimize the side effects as much as it is in my power to do so.

One of the things we must often do is take blood from an animal. Larger animals are not such a problem, as it is easy to find a vein and draw blood. In the case of mice, however, we must be sensitive and frugal. We cannot take very much blood, because mice are small and they don' t HAVE very much blood, so we need to get it in a way that causes as little distress as possible. Also, often we need the mice to survive, so we must be careful that when we bleed the mice we do not do permanent damage. There are a couple of ways. AGAIN: IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO MEDICAL PROCEDURES, PLEASE STOP READING!

You can bleed the mouse by clipping off part of a toe or the end of the tail, this gives a small amount of blood, and each time you bleed the mouse, you must clip more toes, or further up the tail. I object to both of these methods. They don't yield much blood for the length of time it takes and the pain involved, and you permanently mutilate the mouse. The 3rd way is called a retro-orbital bleed. This looks like a painful procedure, but it is quick, the vein heals quickly, and it can be repeated without mutilating the mouse.

I had to bleed 40 mice this AM, and I asked a co-worker for help. She said sure, she'd be glad to help. She neglected to tell me she hadn't done a retro-orbital bleed in months. This is usually fine, it takes 1 or 2 mice to get 'back in the saddle' and off you go...except that she apparently wasn't very good to start with, or she only did it in an academic know, 1 or 2 times in a lab but not enough to be proficient. Anyway, about 1/4 of the way through, when it becomes VERY apparent that she does not know what she's doing, I suggested that she anesthetize, and I would bleed. NO, I can do it. 'No, you can't' is what I'm thinking, but I keep my mouth shut. Of a cage of 5, I do my five, then I move to help her do her 5, she does 3 and I do 2. That's 7 out of 10 mice...for that much help, it would have been easier to do it myself. As it was, I had to go back and rebleed 4 mice because she got such a small amount that I couldn't do what I needed to do with it. It was such a frustrating morning, and then it irritated me all over again in the PM.

Dear Lord, please help me remember that not everyone is good at everything. Not even me. Help me to realize that if I ask someone for help, it is not good form to then tell them that they are doing it wrong, and for them to stop helping me. Help me to be aware of myself, so that I may realize when I am being a hindrance, not a help, and help me to have the humility to step back and make sure they still WANT my help. Thank you for co-workers who like me enough to want to help. Amen.

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