Topic: Animal Research
August 16, 2011 | Posted By Ricki Lewis, PhD

A new biomedical abbreviation debuted July 22, ACHM (for Animals Containing Human Material) in a report of the same name from the UK Academy of Medical Sciences. ACHM will soon replace, I hope, the phrase “humans and animals,” which implies to the taxonomically inclined that we are instead fungus, plant, or microbe. Even the editorial in Nature on the report notes “the distinction between humans and animals.”

Perhaps because I write college biology textbooks that treat Homo sapiens as any other animal species, I’ve long thought a new term necessary. “Non-human animal” is cumbersome. And so I was thrilled at the UK’s acknowledgement of our Kingdom membership, joining us to the others distinguished by our lack of cell walls. But I fear ACHM isn’t catchy enough, and may head straight into the abbreviation graveyard of RFLPs, SNPs, and iPS cells, none of which really caught on beyond the scientific community. Neither will ACHM work as an acronym; it sounds like a clearing of the throat.

Semantics aside, the report is important. It prepares the biomedical community for future use of animals in research that will increasingly include human material. Said Professor Martin Bobrow, chair of the working group, “Our report recommends … a national expert body, within the existing stringent system of animal research regulations, to provide specific advice on sensitive types of ACHM research.”

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

December 14, 2010 | Posted By John Kaplan, PhD

An article posted last week on is entitled “Activist group claims to send AIDS-tainted razors to animal researcher”. Click the picture below to be taken to the article.

(photo from

I appreciate that CNN reported this news but the article left a question lingering in my mind. I will grant that it has not been verified that the razorblades were tainted with HIV. However, nobody seems to be questioning that this UCLA researcher working in the important area of methamphetamine addiction did receive the razorblades at his home and that they were accompanied by a death threat. CNN goes on to tell that "Since 2006, other anonymous activists claimed responsibility for at least 11 acts of sabotage, vandalism, criminal damage and firebombing against UCLA faculty or property, either on or off campus, university officials said. In March 2009, activists seeking to stop the use of animals in research claimed to set fire to Jentsch's vehicle parked overnight outside his home."

Other similar events have delayed, disrupted, or stopped research throughout the world and placed numerous researchers at risk. The groups claiming responsibility freely admit their intent to punish researchers and deter others from conducting research out of fear. So the question lingering in my mind is why these people are referred to as "activists" It sounds to me like a pretty good description of terrorists.

BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.