Eliot Spindel

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Eliot Spindel, MD, PhD is an associate professor in Neuroscience and Medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU). Dr. Spindel received a B.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1980. He was employed as an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard until 1989, when he received his appointment at OHSU. According to his OHSU bio, his research "focuses on the role of nicotine in lung disease and lung development and new clinical therapies". "His co-workers have discovered that the nicotine in cigarettes is one of the key factors in harming fetal development." [1], [2]

Nicotine studies on pregnant & infant primates

Eliot Spindel has conducted nicotine studies [3] on rhesus monkeys since 1978, although the futility of animal testing in tobacco studies has been well documented. [4] Originally, he injected pregnant monkeys with nicotine in order to study lung development on fetuses. In 2000, he began allowing monkey fetuses to grow to full term before killing the infants in different developmental stages; again, to "study their lung development". While nicotine addiction programs and prenatal care are not available to many who require them, Spindel's studies continue to be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to Eliot Spindel, who reported his research to the Journal of Life Sciences:

"Our discovery reveals the little extra push by nicotine. This loop can be revved up by smoking, so there's no question that not smoking is the best thing you can do." [5]

Vitamin C studies

OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) houses almost 4,000 primates and has used over 900 in painful experiments, including tobacco, nicotine and pregnancy studies. Eliot Spindel injects pregnant monkeys with nicotine and gives one group high doses of vitamin C (to prove that pregnant women can smoke if they take vitamin C). He then removes their fetuses by C-section and performs invasive "lung function" tests on babies, after which they are killed to conduct necropsies. [6]

Human epidemiological studies & CDC statistics on birth defects

In 1972, human epidemiological studies confirmed that smoking caused fetal abnormalities.[7]

The Birth Defects Monitoring Program (BDMP) monitors birth defects using data collected when newborn infants are discharged from hospital. The BDMP was initiated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1974. In 1990, researchers looking for trends examined records for 38 types of birth defects from 1979-80 through 1986-87. During this seven-year period, of the 38 types of birth defects, 29 increased; two decreased; and seven remained stable (meaning they changed less than 2% per year during the period). [8] Approximately 25% of all infant deaths could be eliminated with better pre-natal services. Infant deaths would decrease by 10 to 25% if women gave up smoking during pregnancy. Alcohol abuse during pregnancy is the leading cause of preventable birth defects. [9]

Whistle blowing: former employee - 1998 to 2000

During his employment at ONPRC, Matt Rossell took notes, photographs and videos of housing, experiments and effects on monkeys. According to Mr. Rossell, his original intent was to seek internal changes. [10] He worked as an animal care technician at the center for over two years, from 1998 to 2000:

"Among the most horrifying things I witnessed at the lab were the times when baby monkeys were stolen away from their mothers. This was a chaotic, ugly, heart-wrenching scene. A worker wearing thick leather gloves would reach into the cage where the baby clung to her mother's breast, and snatch the baby by one shoulder and arm and rip her from her mother who was screaming and desperately fighting to keep her baby safe. Once removed, the entire room of monkeys would erupt into total pandemonium—screaming, thrashing and crashing against the sides of their cages—some even reaching out through the bars in vain to get the baby back."

Pregnant monkeys are subjected to multiple surgeries to implant nicotine pumps in their backs. Subsequent surgeries change the pumps up to five times during their pregnancies. Infants are cut out of their wombs at various stages of development in order to dissect their lungs. At OHSU and other government funded laboratories, an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for approving research projects. According to Mr. Rossell:

"There was literally no discussion; (Dr. Spindel's) grant was approved without question. The IACUC is made of employees of the lab all with a vested interest to approve these proposals. It's just a rubber stamp committee that gives the illusion of oversight." [11]


The center employed only two care takers for 1,500 animals (predominately highly intelligent and social rhesus maques). Carelessly conducted experiments were carried out by poorly trained animal technicians performing assembly-line style research at a break neck pace. Distressed, diseased infant monkeys lived in their own filth and adult monkeys self mutilated. Infants were prematurely weaned (often causing illness) and placed in small isolation cages, where the monkeys cried out for their mothers. Industry experts agree that isolation during infancy is linked to psychosis and self-mutilation in later life, yet most monkeys are never paired. Almost all research monkeys live alone in cramped, barren 4.3 cubic foot cages; the only break in their daily isolation being fear as they are manipulated for studies or while having their cages hosed down while inside (an animal welfare violation). [12] See also Oregon National Primate Research Center.


Eliot Spindel has received $7.6 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1992. He is scheduled to be funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute until 2012. [13] See also National Institutes of Health, section 4.

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch articles


  1. Eliot Spindel Oregon Health and Sciences University
  2. National Institutes of Health CRISP database describing monkey studies at OHSU, White Coat Welfare, accessed September 2009
  3. Scientific Discovery: Eliot R. Spindel, Tobacco.org, March 2003
  4. See also animal testing, section 5 on tobacco studies.
  5. Wasted Tobacco Settlement Money, White Coat Welfare, accessed September 2009
  6. Oregon Health & Science University, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed February 2009
  7. Wasted Tobacco Settlement Money, White Coat Welfare, accessed September 2009
  8. Peter Montaque Birth Defects: Part 1, Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, #410, October 1994
  9. The March Of Dimes' Crimes Against Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed June 2009
  10. Phillip Dawdy Shock the Monkey, Willamette Weekly, January 2001
  11. Help End Nicotine Experiments on Monkeys at OSHU: This is Thimble, In Defense of Animals, accessed September 2009
  12. Matt Rossell Stories From the Inside: Statement of Matt Rossell Oregon Health Sciences University, In Defense of Animals Undercover TV, August 2000
  13. Help End Nicotine Experiments on Monkeys at OSHU: This is Thimble, In Defense of Animals, accessed September 2009

External articles

External resources