Animal research is the foundation for virtually every medical breakthrough over the past century. Every day, dedicated scientists are using animal models to find cures for the diseases and conditions that affect people and animals.
From antibiotics to blood transfusions, from dialysis to organ transplantation, from vaccinations to chemotherapy, bypass surgery and joint replacement, practically every present-day practice for the prevention, treatment, cure and control of disease, pain and suffering is based on knowledge attained through research using laboratory animals. Animal research is saving both human and animal lives every day.
Approximately 95% of all lab animals are rodents – bred specifically for research. Rodents are the animal model of choice for researchers because their physiology closely resembles that of humans and their genetic make-up is well-defined. For instance, the mouse genome contains essentially the same complement of genes found in the human genome, so studying how the genes work in mice is an effective way of discovering the role of a gene in human health and disease.
The use of animals in research and testing is strictly controlled, particularly regarding potential pain. Federal laws, the Animal Welfare Act and the Public Health Service Act, regulate the alleviation and elimination of pain, as well as such aspects of animal care as caging, feeding, exercise of dogs and the psychological well-being of primates.
Further, each institution must establish an animal care and use committee that includes an outside member of the public as well as a veterinarian. In addition to reviewing and approving the proposed use of animals, this committee is responsible for overseeing the care and use of those animals by inspecting the facilities, monitoring the programs and responding to any concerns raised by that use.
The scientific community advocates the highest quality of animal care and treatment for two key reasons. First, the use of animals in research is a privilege, and those animals that are helping us unlock the mysteries of disease deserve our respect and the best possible care. Second, a well-treated animal will provide more reliable scientific results, which is the goal of all researchers.
To date, there is no comprehensive substitute for animal models in research. Certainly, computer models and cell cultures, as well as other adjunct research methods, are routinely used to reduce the number of animals that must be used. But the pathway to fully replacing a whole, living system does not yet exist. Therefore, it is still necessary to conduct humane and responsible animal research in order for the research community to discover and implement new cures for diseases.
Animal research is necessary to save both human and animal lives. Most recently, scientists discovered spinal cord regeneration techniques because of rodent models. That means some day in the foreseeable future, people will be able to get out of their wheelchairs. The HPV vaccine was developed with rabbits. People with Parkinson’s are benefiting from deep brain stimulation that was perfected on monkeys. Ferrets have been crucial in the development of the bird flu vaccine. Animal research is saving both human and animal lives every day.