Before a Dept of Surgery meeting the other day, a rep from some company called Proxy Biomedical gave a presentation on a newer anti-adhesion barrier called Human Peritoneal Membrane (HPM). HPM is similar to the more well known Seprafilm--- marketed as a product that can theoretically reduce adhesions that form between the bowel and mesh/abdominal wall after open surgery. Fewer adhesions can potentially mean fewer subsequent bowel obstructions and certainly will make any re-operative surgery much less difficult.
The rep was very smooth and tall and quite possibly has a minor recurring role in Mad Men. The crux of his argument rested on an article that had been published in some on-line outfit called the Journal of Surgical Research last year. The "study" had been entirely funded and conducted by researchers affiliated with Proxy Medical---i.e. propaganda under the guise of scientific inquiry. Usually I just use these faux-science articles as a placemat for my morning bagel. But I read this particular one because one of the "authors" was Michael Rosen MD, an eminent local surgeon here in Cleveland, well known for his work on abdominal wall hernias. Plus, the rep's gleaming white cinder block teeth were too much for me to look at any longer.
The study was conducted as follows. Nine pigs were anesthetized and then had an anti-adhesion barrier sewn into its abdominal wall after laparotomy. Laparoscopies were then conducted at day 30 and day 90, noting the degree of relative tenacity of visceral adhesions. Then the pigs were killed and the extent of tissue inflammatory response was determined microscopically.
Now I'm certainly no fan of PETA. I actually have a pronounced distaste for most animals. Cats suck. I don't believe dogs should live under the same roof as a human. I hate movies where the animals talk and perform human-esque feats. I'm especially averse toward the porcine species. If I had to choose a favorite Winnie the Pooh character, it's certainly not the lugubrious, wimpy Piglet (Tigger is the pick here). No moral compunction prevents me from enjoying one or three hot dogs layered in brown mustard at the ballpark. Every time I read The Three Little Pigs to my little girl I make sure to change the plot such that the wolf actually gets to eat the cheap assed pigs who built their houses out of sticks and straw. I don't allow any books about Porky the Pig in my house.
So I'm not some bleeding heart porkophile. Nevertheless I found myself feeling strangely disturbed by the article. Nine pigs were basically sliced and diced and then euthanized in order to determine that.... some new-fangled anti-adhesion barrier (which costs 800 bucks per 10 cm square, incidentally) may lead to a decrease in intra-abdominal adhesion formation? Really? That's it? What's next on Proxy Medical's to-do list of Mengelian science experiments? Chop off 58 monkey hands in order to determine which brand of gauze is more highly absorbent of blood (squaring off against competitors from Johnson & Johnson and Brawny)? Forcibly break the front legs of 17 cougars to assess the relative comfort of their new knee immobilizer (based on decibel levels of cougar screams)?
I dunno. It all seems like a hell of a macabre business to me.