Academics & Faculty

Police, FBI investigating threats to UCLA researchers

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UCLA police and the FBI are investigating two separate claims by anti–animal research extremists that razor blades and threats were mailed this month to campus researchers who work with non-human primates.
 
Law enforcement officials confirmed that David Jentsch, a UCLA neuroscientist, received a package at his home containing razor blades and a threatening note.
 
On numerous websites, extremists have claimed responsibility for mailing a similar package to a graduate student researcher working in Jentsch's laboratory. Law enforcement officials said they have no evidence that the package was received.
 
"These claims and threats are reprehensible criminal acts designed to intimidate UCLA researchers, and I deplore them in the strongest possible terms," Chancellor Gene Block said. "The campus is unwavering in its commitment to the safety of our researchers and their work toward a greater understanding of human physiology and behavior, and toward treatments for a wide variety of ailments, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, schizophrenia, AIDS, and cancer."

Block emphasized that the use of animals in research is subject to strict oversight, including unannounced inspections by federal regulators, to ensure humane care and scientific legitimacy. Lab animals are used in campus research only when no alternatives exist.
 
For several years, UCLA researchers have been subjected to a campaign of harassment, including arson and vandalism, by extremists seeking to halt the use of laboratory animals in research. Extremists claimed responsibility for setting fire to Jentsch's vehicle outside his home in March 2009.
 
Jentsch, a UCLA professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, utilizes vervet monkeys in research that focuses on genetic and neurochemical mechanisms that influence cognition, impulse control and decision-making. The work, much of it funded by the National Institutes of Health, has provided critical insights into the biochemical processes that contribute to methamphetamine addiction and tobacco dependence in teens and the cognitive disabilities affecting behavior, speech and reasoning in schizophrenia patients. Understanding how the brain stores and processes information is critical in developing treatments for these disorders.
 
"Responsible use of animals in research aimed at improving the health and welfare of the mentally ill is the right thing to do, and we will continue because we have a moral responsibility to society to use our skills for the betterment of the world," Jentsch said.
 
Additional information on animal research at UCLA is available on this background page.
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