No, really — it has. And it’s all Congress’s fault. (Well, not all of Congress. Just Republicans, who want to “hurt Americans.”) You can tell how serious these rabbit-killing budget cuts are when the Huffington Post writes about them under the banner “Sequestration Ushers In A Dark Age For Science In America.” Ooooh, ominous.
So, what exactly is the story? The least dramatic telling of it is at Grist, which reports that the National Institutes of Health was forced by sequestration to trim $1.7 billion from its budget. Among the projects that were deep-sixed was research on human retinal degeneration at the University of Utah medical school. The project director, ophthalmology professor Robert E. Marc, is distraught not only at having the rug pulled out from under his research but at having to kill his colony of genetically modified bunnies.
That Marc developed a bond with his lab specimens is evident from this missive he dispatched to HuffPo’s Sam Stein:
I have … euthanized many beautiful, rare and expensive transgenic rabbits that were new, exciting models for testing new therapies for human retinal degenerations. We petted them, played with them, fed them treats. Now they are dead….
I’ve spent over $25,000 developing a colony of animals who have a progressive age dependent blindness. Because of the sequester we’ve killed them before we could finish the treatment study … When and if Congress ever does anything again, it will be years before we get our new blindness treatment study back on line.
Sounds like the professor needs to get out a little more.
Meantime, a question that Stein et. al. are obviously too grief-stricken (and angry at Republicans) to ask is why Marc had to destroy these exquisite creatures rather than put them up for adoption. Is it because, as he obviously knows too well, this is the fate of all “living specimens” used in in vivo experimentation? Or could it be that the bunnies wouldn’t make very good pets since they were blind?
And why were the rabbits blind? Because some heartless researcher had bred them to “have a progressive age dependent blindness.” And what is the name of that professor, class? Correct, it is Robert E. Marc.
As for the sequester and animals, the budget cuts luckily had no impact on the president’s airlifting of his dog to Martha’s Vineyard, so that Bo could enjoy a little R&R along with the rest of the family.