After five years, biologist gets permission for animal test
He wasn’t sure he would win, says Verhulst. When he was first denied, he felt this was more a case of principles that wasn’t based on any real arguments. ‘I thought they were just looking for excuses. I wasn’t convinced, and neither was the judge.’
Five years ago, Verhulst submitted his application for an experiment involving sixty wild jackdaws. He wants to inject the animals with the IGF-1 growth hormone and see if the increased growth rate negatively affects the birds’ health. He would check this by measuring their telomeres, which are a kind of protective cap on the end of chromosomes. These telomeres get shorter as you age.
The CCD rejected his application, because they felt the research should be done in a laboratory and not on wild animals.
However, Verhulst says the circumstances cannot be simulated in a lab setting. Because the CCD’s rejection was putting an end to an entire study into ageing, Verhulst took them to court. It was a matter of principles for him, too. ‘Perhaps they realised we were ready to take it all the way to the Council of State’, he says.
He’s happy with the outcome. The fact that he now has his permit does not mean he can immediately resume his research, though. The post-doctoral student who was going to do it has left for Estonia. ‘He was here for three years, but it wasn’t enough time to get the permit.’
Verhulst hopes he’ll still be able to do the research. ‘Perhaps we could do some of it in Estonia and some of it here. We’re working on figuring it out.’