A bunny rabbit dead on the floor of a lab while other bunnies watch on in a lab facility. Image Credit: We Animals Media

868 Rabbits used in spinal bone graft experiments

In a four year period (2016-2019) researchers at the University of New South Wales have used, according to their publication Single level posterolateral lumbar fusion in a New Zealand White rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) model: Surgical anatomy, operative technique, autograft fusion rates, and perioperative care, 868 adult female New Zealand White rabbits in lumber fusion experiments.

The surgical procedure to test various synthetic grafting materials for spinal fusion in the 868 rabbits in a total 30 experiments involved removing bone from the spine, grinding it into small pieces, combining it with various synthetic materials, and then implanting it back into the animal’s spine by syringe. The rabbits were monitored and radiographed for a period of 12 weeks to observe the bone fusion. After this time their fate is not reported. It is unlikely any survived.

As prey animals, rabbits are nervous around other animals and humans. In the laboratory setting, they are likely to become anxious and suffer increased levels of stress, with technicians taking them in and out of their cages for radiography and observation. Rabbits are sentient beings and not tools for scientific research.

Instead of outdated animal models, scientists around the world are now exploring tissue engineering to create in-vitro versions of human bones. For example, Dr Bregje de Wildt at the Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, has, as part of her Ph.D., explored ways to grow human ‘mini-bones’ in the lab.

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