155-Year-Old Eel Named “Ale”: Why this is news worthy

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I wrote in jest about the passing of 155-year-old Ale, the eel who died after living a fulfilling life in a family’s well in a small village in Sweden, where he kept the population of flies and insects in check. Then I got to thinking about his pending autopsy at the Institute of Freshwater Fish Research in Drottningholm.

Wanted: Dead or Alive

Wanted: Dead or Alive

 

During my pondering about Ale’s analysis, it occurred to me that, if they find out what lead to his longevity, I’d like some of it. There is so much I’d like to do with another 105 years of living. It’s a fact that animal research has lead to benefits for humans. Below is a small sampling of major medical breakthroughs thanks to our environmental co-inhabitors.

h/t: Americans for Medical Progress

Animal Research Means Medical Progress

Despite claims by animal rights activists, it is undeniable that animal-based research has contributed to significant improvement in the length and quality of our lives. Following are just a few specific cases in which the use of laboratory animals has been a vital component of medical progress.

Cancer – New cancer drugs account for 50-60 percent of the gains we have made in cancer survival rates since 1975. Overall, these medicines have contributed a remarkable 10.7% of the increase in life expectancy at birth in the United States. Until recently, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy were the dominant treatments for cancer. But now, thanks in large part to animal-based research, there is a new molecular and genetic understanding of tumor biology, leading to treatments that set out to more directly kill cancer cells, which are molecularly different from normal cells. Use of this knowledge to design drugs that focus on those abnormalities is called rational drug design, and is seen by many as the currently emerging future reality of cancer treatment — of “kinder and gentler” cancer therapies that only target abnormal cells,

Diabetes – 18.2 million people – 6.3 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes, which is a leading cause of death and disability. Diabetes also affects animals and has been diagnosed in virtually every breed of dog and cat. Several new treatments and medicines, including development of quick-acting and long-acting insulins, islet transplantation for type 1 diabetes, and new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes are helping patients manage their disease. Research involving animal models continues to improve treatments for chronic complications including blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.

Birth Defects – Every three and a half minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States.

Folic Acid – Studies with animals determined that folic acid, a B vitamin, helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before conception and early in pregnancy. Since this discovery, a public education campaign launched in 1992 has prevented thousands of such birth defects.

Spinal Cord Injuries – The Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation notes that amazingly, more research progress has been achieved in the past five years than in the previous fifty. Now that the age-old dogma that the spinal cord could not be repaired has been debunked, scientists feel they are on the threshold of major discoveries that will lead to new treatments. Animal models are used for exploring repair and recovery of the spinal cord. The search for a cure for paralysis could also yield advances in the treatment of other neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and the aftereffects of stroke.

Read more: http://www.amprogress.org/animal-research-benefits

Is it selfish of me for wanting to know the details of Ale’s long life? I don’t think so. After all, it’s not like I’ll be the only one to get the advantages of his autopsy.

I still think, however, that I should fly to Sweden to confirm the credentials of the coroner, and get the autopsy results personally. You can never tell whether journalists will report accurately the truth about a situation.

 

THBby T.M. Burroughs

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