Dogs deliberately suffocated, hearts removed, transplanted and then killed 

Researchers from Alfred Hospital and Monash University used 12 greyhound dogs in an attempt to investigate methods of preserving resuscitated hearts (perfusion devices) following ‘donation after circulatory death’ (DCD), and to assess recovery following subsequent heart transplantation.

12 greyhounds were randomly allocated to one of two groups; 8 into the perfusion group, and 4 into the cold static storage group. They were pre-medicated with acetylpromazine (used in animals as a means of chemical restraint), and then anaesthetised, intubated, and mechanically ventilated (to allow them to breathe).

The left femoral vein (in the thigh) was cannulated (tube insertion) for fluid infusion and the artery for haemodynamic monitoring respectively. A catheter was also inserted via the right internal jugular vein (in the neck) for measurement of cardiac output and monitoring of filling pressure. A median sternotomy was performed on the dogs and a baseline epicardial echocadiogram (a sonogram of the heart) was obtained.

Researchers then deliberately ceased ventilation for 30 minutes in order to kill the dogs via asphyxia, thereby causing circulatory death (the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs)

The hearts of the dogs were then surgically removed and preserved for 4 hours by either the static cold storage method, or the controlled reperfusion method.

After the 4-hour period, heart transplantation was performed and the dogs’ recovery was assessed over the following 4 hours.

All of the greyhounds were then killed.

(Rosenfeldt, F, Ou, R, Salamonsen, R, Marasco, S, Zimmet, A, Byrne, J, Cosic, F, Saxena, P & Esmore, D 2016. ‘A Novel Combination Technique of Cold Crystralloid Perfusion But Not Cold Storage Facilitates Transplantation of Canine Hearts Donated After Circulatory Death – Cold crystralloid perfusion for DCD heart preservation’, Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation. Unpublished manuscript.)

HRA sought advice from a senior cardiologist on this experiment. Their response:

“Monash and the Alfred Hospital have the combined resources, to test the preservation fluid effect on human hearts – hearts that are available if they are not able to be used for heart transplantation.

This could have been ground breaking work.

The use of greyhounds in this instance ignored the NHMRC guidelines for Use of Animals in Scientific Research, where replacement of animals, ie developing alternatives, is the first and foremost principle.

The greyhounds were asphyxiated under anaesthesia, and this makes me feel very uneasy. This is obviously not the same as a human donor who may have brain damage from a car accident and develop brain death over many days.

This work will in any case have to be done in humans hearts making the distress, anxiety and suffering of the greyhounds, sadly enough, pointless.”

–  Prof. Anne Keogh, MBBS MD FRACP



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