Lab Rat Chat - Episode 03 with Dr. Stephen Beebe, a cancer research scientist at Old Dominion University.
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In this third episode of Lab Rat Chat, Jeff and Danielle talk to a research scientist, Dr. Stephen, about his research and how and why it requires the use of animals. Stephen conducts cancer research trying to find cures, and even vaccines, for various types of cancer. This has real impacts for both humans and our beloved pets, and I think Stephen illustrates some really fascinating points regarding the use of animals in research that you’ve never thought about before.
Topics discussed in this episode:
“When we do euthanize an animal, we try to be sure that we get maximum use from the tissues.”
“We place them in a cage with a heating pad under it so they stay warm…and we have treats in the cage and one thing I’ve always noticed when an animal comes out of anesthesia, the first thing they do is start chewing on those little treats.”
“We actually began this with simulation and modeling…then we used cells in culture…and then the next step that needed to be taken was to go to animals. So, we had a lot of information before we went to animals in terms of how to do this, so we minimized the number of animals needed.”
Resources & Links:
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welcome to the third episode of Lab Rat Chap, a podcast dedicated to informing the public on the importance of animal research. And Howard is 100% necessary for continuing to make medical advancements for both human and veterinary medicine. This podcast is supported by Americans for Medical Progress through the Michael D. Hair Fellowship, which is awarded to someone each year to support projects like this that are developed to educate the public on the importance of animal research. The fellowship is in honor of the late Dr Michael Hair, a renowned board certified laboratory animal veterinarian who dedicated his career to scientific and medical advancements, and he was committed to animal welfare and advocacy. In this third episode of Lab Rat Shot, we're gonna be talking with Dr Stephen, a research scientist who has been working with animals to help, understand and hopefully one day find a cure to some of the many diseases affecting us and even our pets. He's been doing this for a long time and has a ton of experience, and offers us a perspective from the scientist point of view on how and why these animals are so valuable to research and ultimately medical advancements. I don't want to say much more. So please a sit back. Relax and enjoy this third episode of Lab Rat Chat. Hey, everybody, welcome back to a lab rat shot. This is episode number three. And today we're talking to Dr Steven. He's a research scientist who's actually in the lab with these animals doing science on a daily basis. So welcome to the show, Steven.
Well, thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Yeah, if you could. Just for our listeners, just tell us a little bit about yourself about your background and the kind of research that you D'oh. That'd be great.
Sure. Yeah. I've always been curious about nature, and that kind of got me into science. So I did my bachelor's degree in psychology Then Then I worked for a summer a g d. Searle pharmaceutical Company as an undergraduate, and that really kind of got me into some serious research where we're looking for a male contraceptive, which was interesting. Nice. Then after my bachelors degree was Peace Corps volunteer. Fortunately, I didn't have to go to be at Mom, but I wanted to do some kind of service and So I did the Peace Corps in the West Indies, taught biology and little bit of chemistry, and had fun in the neighborhood with the kids and that sort of thing, teaching a little bit of science on the fly. Then I had a child when I was there, and I thought, Gee, I better get a career So I decided I wanted to really get into research. So I did a PhD in pharmacology department. My advisors were biochemist. I had to really good advisors. They were both biochemist, so my PhD was really more biochemistry. But my department was pharmacology, so I get a good taste opposed on him. Men. I did a post doc on Howard Hughes Institute, and then I got into cell biology, and we did, Ah, a lot of metabolic things, looking at how cancer rather how insulin worked and how metabolism changed and how metabolism was regulated. Then I did a Fulbright in Norway and I got into cloning and doing PCR. Then I came back to the U. S. And I was in a obstetrics and gynecology, and then I went into pediatrics, the perfect, and then I kind of left behind a lot of the kinds of things I was doing before it started working with Bio Electric. So that's where I am now working with now the second pulse electric field and and treating cancer. And all along the way, there's always been animals in the research in one way or another, and some in more detail than others. And right now we're doing quite a bit of work with mice and breast cancer and melanoma. So that's kind of Ah, a little bit of a review.
Yeah. Now it's quite the background. A lot of research, that's for sure. Bella, sounds very technical.
I feel like you have a lot of very interesting stories that if we had more time on this podcast, it would be fun to go a little off topic. Oh, no. Well, kind of keep it about our main topic.
I know. Well, I was just thinking about the male contraceptive and how that would be without animals, for example.
Yeah, that would be quite difficult. So
I mean, you'd probably get lots of willing participants for that one.
Yeah, any college campus. And it was great,
but yes. I mean, that's some of what you said. A woman wanna spark a question. I want to ask you later about how you've seen this field evolve over the years with the use of animals and research. But specifically now you talk about bio electrics and Nana pulsed electric fields. Correct me if I'm wrong. I know. Yes. I sit in your office and talk about this all the time. But my memory is seems to be going away already. If you could just tackle maybe a little bit about what by electrics isn't what you guys do and what you're focusing on. And maybe what you can apply from your animal models into humans one day are using this technology.
Yeah, sure. Well, it's a unique extension of what was called pulse power, which was actually is for military, used in radar and developing radar, where really sure, like pulses were needed. And by using the really short pulses in the nat a second range that are really fast, they come on quick and go away quickly. First we saw we could kill bacteria at the first idea was to for decontamination. And then I was working with cancer cells. And so I tried it with cancer cells were able to kill cancer cells. And then the issue came. Well, you know, can you kill tumors? Can you get rid of cancer? And so that requires an animal model. You We had used mice and rats, and we are able to eliminate the cancer and then, even more surprisingly, and it was kind of a bonus to the whole thing. I thought killing cancer was cool, but it actually induces an immune response and when it's done in the right way, and so the fact that you we can not only kill answer, but we can also activate the hosts immune system to work against the cancer as well. And that's the way most of medicine you're going now for cancer is not just kill the cancer cell. You've got to induce the immune system of much as possible. So we're right in the midst of where good cancer research is being done. So
yeah, that's perfect, cause so much cancer. I mean, it's gets treated and then, you know, a year five or 10 years later, it's coming back. Oh, yeah, so that's what I mean. Yeah, that's fascinating.
I think another important part of what you mentioned is the research always starts out before the animal model. You know, you started out killing bacteria, so I think that's an interesting point. And to kind of debunk that myth that people just jump right in tow, coming up with an idea and ordering animals. There's such a process involved, and the animals are only used when it's kind of shown to probably be the next step, and it's necessary.
That's a good point because we actually began this with the simulation that modeling, you know, doing in silica kinds of things to see what would happen to membranes and cells when you treated them with. But you know, when you simulate an electric pulses on them, then we use cells in culture where you know the animals not needed. You just grow the cells in culture, and we learned an awful lot about the mechanisms for help, and now the second pulses induced cancer, so that was really valuable. And then the next step that needed to be taken was to go to animals, that we had a lot of information before he went to animals. In terms of how to do this. So we minimize the number of animals that we needed and we jumped right into it and quite successful. Initially, based on what we had learned from the in silicone and the in vitro studies, I think that's a good way to go.
Yeah, it's great to hear firsthand from U.
S. A. And we've already kind of told our listeners about the whole process of getting an I cook approval and having, ah, protocol that's been reviewed by a group of people. But I think another fun thing that you can contribute to this episode is that you also serve on the I cook and you're actually the chair of the committee. So you kind of get to see both sides of it. You're part of the review process as well as doing the research. So I don't know if you can kind of add any insight into the process of being the chair of the I cook for listeners.
Yeah, well, that's the cancer research. That's one of my main responsibilities. I take that quite seriously. It's not trivial to head a committee that looks at all the research has done with animals on the campus and to be sure that it's done, you know, in an ethical way. And I think as being a scientist and doing the research with animals and having the scientific method in mind, it does provide a good background for reviewing protocols. And sometimes you get into a situation where you think, well, maybe the experiment should be done differently, and you have to be careful about approaching and other scientists telling them how to do their work. We want to be sure that the work that they do comes to fruition and gives important information. That's one aspect of what the other aspect of it is it in the process that the animals are treated humanely and so I could committee should have somebody is similar to what I do, or somebody involved in research whose chairing the committee and there's many people on the committee who are scientists and is important have non scientists on because they have a unique perspective. And of course there's a place for that in the committee. It all works quite well.
That is perfect to have one of you know from a scientist perspective, when someone's telling you something about your protocol to have one of your peers a fellow scientists to be ableto, you know, relate to them, really. They know you understand their protocol and you relate to the project that they're doing, and you're able to give sound advice. And even though I know like you said before, until someone how to do their science. But sometimes you know you just have to intervene in a certain way that may affect the science for the sake of the animals. And we talked about on the show about sometimes I cook meetings can take 233 and 1/2 4 hours sometimes, and sometimes that's just, you know, two or three protocols and say, Like you said, you really do go through them with a fine tooth comb and make sure everything's in place to protect those animals. That's really great.
Well, I think that's the basic scientific process all the way around is. But when you send the grant office reviewed and critique and when you published manuscript CE where you send your manuscript for publication there reviewed and critiqued and it is the same way with the I a cook is you look at a protocol and look at it not only for the good science, but also to be sure that the animals are treated humanely. The is an important aspect. The system works, general. It works well. We've had really good results here with the protocols that that have been approved and, um, or a lack of credited. And we've maintained that since the very beginning. So I think we're on the right track
and we actually have a knitter view with someone from a lech. Jeff, Who are we talking to in the next episode?
It's Dr Helen Digs from A like She's one of the senior directors over there.
Yeah, so that'll be fun will be able to kind of get into what those requirements are and how rigid of a review process that is.
I think she's a senior director. I think that's her title. If I got that wrong, I apologize in advance. We'll get it right in the next episode, though, sure, but let's go back to some of the research and since that's your specialty and the use of animals in your research, so I mean, could you d'oh what you do and make advancements in research without having to use the animals. And do you see any point in the future to where you could stop using animals to be able to do your type of research that has a benefit either to humans or people's pets? Veterinary medicine?
That's tough. We've done an awful lot of information from in vitro stuff, as I mentioned earlier, much easier to, you know, do stuff with cells and find out what's going on side of cells rather than what's going on side of animals much more complicated. I think the immune thing makes that steps that would make the work without animals very difficult for me. When you do simulations, you have to know Adam for Adam, what the cell, what's the cell represents? And we would have to know so much that we don't know about the immune system. I think maybe fire in the future. If we learn enough, you know that sooner or later we might be able to do this with simulation. That's we understand well enough how the immune system works, but it's never fails that every time you answer a question or two, you get five or six more questions that you need to answer So they're the unknowns. Just keep going. So maybe in the future, hopefully we would be able to simulate the immune system or immune responses. But then you have to know how all these drugs were that she might be using. And so that produces another complication. And you might be able to learn a lot about that in vitro, using the drugs you know in cells and finding out how they kill cells. Unfortunately, it's along the long way off because I've been just about anything that goes inside of our bodies as a medication or as a cancer treatment has to have some kind of preliminary studies that indicate that effective before we take it, humans and animals is the animals are kind of, you know, just before we get the US.
So one of the things we've talked about on this episode, a line we had a veterinarian on our last episode talk about kind of the daily lives of these animals in a research. But from the research perspective, how do you go about using these animals sighting on how many animals you're going to use? You get a man, they get put into their cages you start using them right away, and then do you have certain end points where you stop using them once you get your data? Are they reused for other projects? What's the animal's life like in the library in just a fancy word for animal facility? For those who don't know,
yeah, there's many different aspects. Well, first of all, it's a typical study. We would inject tumor cells into mice into their breast pad for the breast cancer. For melanoma. We put it just under the skin. Then we wait several days and usually with these cells acres by fast. So in 7 to 10 days or so, we have a tumor. Actually, when we put the cells into the animal, we just scruff them and hold them. We don't really need toe. Anesta ties them, and so we can hold him in one hand and inject with the other hand. That works pretty well when you're used to doing it. And there's a lot of teaching along the way that we want to be sure that everybody working with the animals knows how to do what they're doing. And so that's something we'll watch closely. Then, after the tumor has grown. We treated with the nanosecond pulses, and it's usually done with a little clip electrodes on. If the ties the animal put him on a heating pad deep, them warm. And then we treat them with the never second pulses. When we're finished, the animals wake. They weight really quickly. We put him in the cage that has a heating pad. Hendricks of their state warm because with anesthesia, they'll body temperature drop a little bit. And we have treats in the cage and one of things. I always noticed. The animal comes out of anesthesia. The first thing they still start chewing on those little treats. So they're doing good. They're fine.
If you're eating, it's a good sign.
Then we would for one type of study, we would. After the treatment, we would wait. Hopefully, the tumor were treated properly. They go away at that point. Then we would inject the animal with the cancer again. And in this case, with their liver model In our breast cancer model, the tumors don't grow. That's a study where the animals are going to be alive for 8 to 10 weeks or so. They're just fine in their cage, and you know we take care of them and regular and given treats. And when the cancer doesn't grow in these animals, we might, for example, in that study we might euthanize the animals, look at their immune system and see what it was about their T cells and the other immune cells that caused the animals to be immune. We've essentially, it's really an NC to vaccination. The treatment vaccinates the animal against the disease, which is pretty cool. And then other studies. We want to find out what's going on a time course. So after we treat the tumor, we might euthanize an animal, a series of animals on one day after three days after five days after we've treated them and look at the musicals in their blood and their spleen, their lymph nodes and in the cancer micro environment. Unfortunately, we've been able to truncate this kind of studies because some of our tumors have a marker and then they have a luciferase gene in them, so we don't have to euthanize them. We can follow what happens to the tumor with the marker with the elusive fry sits on the cancer
right, which will, like, illuminate, and you're able to visualize right without happened to euthanize so you can use specialized equipment to look at that
exactly. Sort of like an X ray, but with colors
right colored, actually, exactly. Yeah, so So, yeah, that's Ah, General. And occasionally now we're doing some studies where we just need T cells, and so we will euthanize animals and take the spleen or the lymph nodes When we do that, By the way, there's other studies that are going on. Have students that are not only working with T cells are working with a liver. Other people might be working with muscle or something else. And when we do euthanize an animal, we try to be sure that we get maximum use from the tissues there so that the best we can
do right? I think that's an important point to bring up. Is that tissue sharing protocols, if you will, that a lot of institutions have in place so that you make sure that these animals get utilized in the most efficient and effective ways that they can be in that if it if somebody needs somebody studying heart or liver and Oregon or something that you don't need. They can come down and get that and use them for their studies. They don't have to use additional animals to accomplish that.
Yeah, exactly. The manager and the animal facility is pretty well, the tune. What everybody's doing. And so you know, we could say to him that were euthanizing animals and he'll let us know somebody needs some other tissues, that's what. So it's that works.
I think another nice point that you brought up just to the level of detail that goes into these procedures is that you even think down to the level of having a heating pad for these animals and having treats in their cage and enclosures. So when they wake up, you know, there's something pleasant there, and I think there's just from all institutions, not just where you work, but so much goes into just keeping those animals happy. I guess is the best way to describe it that there's just such a good level of care for the animals, even on the researchers side, you know?
Yeah, I think probably some of them eyes have a better life in their animal, surely than they have out nature, you know, under my house. And, uh,
Well, the ones that are in your house need to get out. So,
yeah, I think I probably told you the story about my daughter in the mice were in Norway. That was she didn't want to kill the mice. They were in the winter. They were coming into the house. And so I convinced her that they brought disease into the house and they could need our food. We get sick and we went down to the market and we got the best cheese that we could find. And we put that in the trap. And so I told her that, you know, they'd have a very good meal. Their last meal would be,
and she bought it.
That's something I would do is a kid as well. I loved my screwing up. I think I actually just recently found out that my dad lied to me for many years about getting rid of some squirrels on our property, that he would make them disappear when I wasn't home so that he wouldn't traumatize me and make me cry. Well,
everybody loves animals. I mean, there's no question about that. So it's tricky. Can be, you know, tricky. Sometimes working with him.
Yeah, and I think this kind of leads us. Indio Some of the changes that have taken place over the years in the field of animal research and how it's evolved and how that's really, I think, really been driven, I think, by scientists and researchers, administrators, everyone involved in the field who saw firsthand that if you treat these animals with more respect and higher quality of care, that you get better data and I think that's important to bring up. And I think that I'm sure you've seen that firsthand where you know, animals, I may not be well taken care of may not provide the best data. You fix the protocol and you add in a higher quality of care of things like heating pads after surgery, that now the animals doing much better, and that scientists gets better data that could be published. And so I think that the field devolves from scientists. Do you agree with that? You think
yeah, absolutely. That's really important. I've heard stories of people doing, you know, research in an animal facility, and they're gathering data and Then they find out the facilities not clean their animals, air contaminated with bacteria of one kind or another, and it really totally compromises their data. So it's important to have a clean facility in our facility. You know, when an animal comes in from the approved vendor. While you probably know this, there's two day quarantine time before they could be done, they have to kind of celebrate to the new environment. So I think all those little things are, you know, important and doing research in an immune system studying immunity. I want to be sure that my animals aren't infected with something else, but that would really have an impact on the data that we have. There was one of the studies we had, where after the study it was we're retreating with pulse little magnetic fields, and they were likely anesthetized. We gave those animals to other people, some of them we used. It was relatively short study, and even the committee said, Is there something else you can do with them? So we isolated the muscles from the animals where they were treated, and we got a lot more data out of that that we wouldn't have done otherwise. And the committee said, Can you do something else besides this study? We were just looking at the effect of of these pulses on blood flow. And so I think, just keeping animals in a good environment. And they have enrichment in their cages. They have treats and, ah, retreat them really Well,
yeah, I think we're We've really emphasized that. Hopefully we're driving that point home to the listeners. Let them know that they're well taken care of. And I mean every aspect, every single detail just thought about before an experiment has undertaken with the animals. But I'm sure is much different. Back in the day before, some of today's regulations and requirements were even in place. I don't want to give away your age for anything but sex. Back before there were I A cooks and things like that, which I'm not aware of that I wasn't around. I wasn't in this field. I guess it was around. But I wasn't in the field in
Jeff, You're digging a hole. I
know how much snot
for my Ph. D. There was no animal committee. We were doing studies with the muscle, so we were due euthanized rats, and we use the guillotine. But there weren't any rules about being sure the guillotine was sharp, so at least those animals had a quick death. But there's nobody told me to do that when I was a post doc. Also, there was no animal facility and sorry, there was no this animal, is it? Obviously, there wasn't like Cook. There was one instance. I just give you an example as making some antibiotics and a guinea pig. And I wanted to get blood from the guinea pig, and one of my colleagues said they get it from the eye. You can do it from the eye. And I went, Don't see. Nobody showed me how to do that. You know, I went to books and looked how to do it, and fortunately I got blood and the animal. I didn't blind the animal. The animal was crying afterwards, but there's nobody there to teach me that.
Yeah, it's kind of scary. I think I had a three day training on how to do that from a mouse.
Yeah, of course. Now our committee, we don't even want people do that. There's other ways to get blood from animals than that. Just an example. And I think a lot of people in the field realized that at that point I was telling my boss nobody showed me how to do this invisible. I don't know how to do it. I said, Well, okay, I just did it. Unfortunately, we turned out okay.
I think a good point is just with the evolution of animal research, the people who were in this field before and I cook everyone's kind of okay with the progression and the new regulations, because it does make for better research.
Oh, yeah, Absolutely. I remember when we had our new animal facility and, ah, there was some blowback because people didn't want to have to put the booties on, But the d p. E. On And they were just used to, you know, going in the facility and, you know, in the street shoes. And who knows? You know what they were carrying in. And the P P, I think, is really important. You know, the gloves and masks and everything. And there's much that you think on one hand, you know, we're protecting us from the animals, but it's the other way around really were. This is protecting animals from us in many instances, so but I think generally, you know, after people got used to doing that, I don't think anybody had a trouble with annals retreated humanely. Then anyway, it's just the facility wasn't as clean, and it would be a little bit more concerned about the research that was being done on the quality of that kind of environment where there's not the protection that protects the animals from the outside world, so to
speak. Yeah, so let's just get going toe the last couple things I want to talk about on the show and this one's just solely for entertainment sake, so we've kind of talked about it before. But what do you tell people when they ask you what you do and you tell them about animal research? And what are their reactions to that? Before we wrap up this episode, I'm just curious.
Well, usually, you know, I just tell them I'm doing cancer research and try to Garrett Thio not really talk too much about the animals, mainly not because I have any concerns about doing it and the ethics of it, but I don't know what other people think about it. There's a lot of people that are opposed to it. I remember I said something to my friend one time he was asking me what I did, and I just become share the I cook. And I mentioned that I said, you know, share the animal Karen Hughes committee. That all is that I'm so glad you're doing this, you know, because, you know, I've been supporting Peter for years, and I kind of
went over his head.
I don't know what he thought, but I just left it at that and I said, Yeah, I'm glad that
I think of you provided some great information for the listeners to take home and be able to take in and absorb and continue our quest here of, you know, just providing this information, letting people know that, you know, animal research is highly regulated field. And it's not everything that you may hear otherwise. I think just a few housekeeping things to bring up. This is Episode number three. We are still doing our Amazon gift card giveaways. And so we're gonna do that by picking random users that our listeners that lead feedback and the comments for the episodes. So one will be announcing those on the podcast or through our Twitter page, or we'll do it some way. And our Twitter handle is at the lab Brad shot and our email. If you wanted to get in, contact us through that method is library chat at gmail dot com.
Yes. Oh, shoot us some questions. If you want us to bring him up in future episodes or address any concerns or just things that you're unclear about, put it on our twitter. Send us an email and you will be entered to win an Amazon gift card.
Yes, all the feedback we can get. And like we said, every episode you leave feedback have questions, will either answer him, you know, through social media. Or we can address them on the show. You and thanks for listening, everybody. I hope you've enjoyed this third episode of Lab Rat Shot and thank you, Steven, for coming on and offering this wealth of information for everyone.
Oh, I'm glad to have the opportunity to do it. Thank you for that.
Awesome. Thanks, everybody
All right, you guys