Animal Testing and Research Achievements

Animal testing and research is behind virtually every treatment in existence — and we have all been the beneficiaries.

If you’ve ever taken a medicine or had a medical procedure, you’ve benefited from animal testing and research.

Research in cows helped create the world’s first vaccine, which in turn helped end smallpox. Studies with monkeys, dogs, and mice led to the polio vaccine. Drugs used to combat cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis, and malaria would not have been possible without research with primates. See our animal testing and research achievement chart below for more on how animals have contributed to lifesaving and life-improving breakthroughs.

Click below to learn how animal testing and research has advanced human health.

Stem Cells

Teams of scientists are now identifying the therapeutic potential for transplanting stem cells for a wide range of therapies for such devastating diseases as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Rodent models are playing an integral role in this research.

Leukemia

Thanks to dramatic improvements in treatment; about 98 percent of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia go into remission within weeks after starting treatment. About 90 percent of those children can be cured. Mouse models of leukemia were critical for the development of current therapies.

Cystic Fibrosis

A treatment to help those with cystic fibrosis may be available within five years, say scientists who have been working for decades to develop a gene therapy for the disease, thanks to basic research with mice, pigs, and ferrets.

Anti-Psychotics

More than 7 million Americans are living with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Thanks to new, long-acting anti-psychotic drug therapies, many of them are able to live lives of greatly improved quality. Scientists were able to develop such treatments with the help of rodent models of the diseases.

Paralysis

About 6 million people in the United States are living with paralysis. Scientists are now studying rodents to find potential new spinal cord therapies to spur neurons to grow and create new connections, enabling recovery of sensations and motor functions. Other researchers have used cats to understand and treat facial paralysis. Eventually, paralysis may be reversed.

Paralysis

About 6 million people in the United States are living with paralysis. Scientists are now studying rodents to find potential new spinal cord therapies to spur neurons to grow and create new connections, enabling recovery of sensations and motor functions. Other researchers have used cats to understand and treat facial paralysis. Eventually, paralysis may be reversed.

Ebola

The 2014 Ebola outbreak claimed more than 11,000 lives and more than 28,000 people were infected. Ebola causes severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and other mammals. So far, vaccines have shown promise in preliminary safety trials with animals and an effective vaccine is expected. Because Ebola evolved from primate viruses, animal research is essential to the study of disease.

Statins

A widely prescribed class of drugs called statins can block plaque buildup in arterial walls and reduce the incidence of heart attacks. Newer statins with improved efficacy show beneficial secondary effects in the treatment of coronary heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Rodents, dogs, cats, monkeys and rabbits have all contributed to the development of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Cholesterol

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and high cholesterol is a contributing factor in cardiovascular health. Nearly 30 percent of adults over the age of 40 have taken a cholesterol-lowering medication within the past 30 days. Roughly one in every four adults is prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medication.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The accumulation of beta amyloid containing plaques in the brain correlates with the onset and advance of Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to memory loss, dementia and ultimately, death. With the help of rodents, researchers are developing new therapies that can help the brain destroy plaques and reduce their production. Australian scientists recently tested a special ultrasound device that stimulates the brain’s waste-removal cells, restoring 75 percent of memory in mice. Researchers plan to test the device on higher species before human trials planned for 2017.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and more than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. And the costs are daunting. In 2015 alone, $226 billion was spent in the U.S. on the treatment of Alzheimer’s and associated dementias. If more effective treatments are not developed, by the year 2050, costs will rise to $1.1 trillion.

Artificial Blood

Artificial blood substitutes are being developed for transfusions to save the lives of trauma patients in emergencies as well as those undergoing lengthy, complex surgical procedures. Animal modeling has been critical for this precious medical resource.

Flu Vaccine

Each year in the U.S., roughly 150 million doses of influenza vaccine are distributed annually to prevent outbreaks and reduce the impact of this disease. Certain strains of influenza can have serious consequences, even death, for high-risk persons, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly. Researchers are working on developing a universal flu vaccine with the help of animal models since as many as 500,000 people die worldwide from influenza each year. Historically, ferrets, mice and guinea pigs have been important animal models in influenza research.

Cancer

Drugs to treat cancer are more effective than ever before thanks, in large part, to animal models involved in oncology research and testing. Cancer deaths have been on a continuous decline in the United States since the 1990s. There is still much work to be done, however. According to the American Cancer Society, there are 1,658,370 new cancer cases and 589,430 cancer deaths in the U.S. each year. With the help of dogs, rodents and other animal species, scientists are working toward development of more effective cancer treatments, namely gene and immunotherapy.

Diabetes

Animal research was key to the discovery and development of a variety of treatments for diabetes, which affects 29 million Americans.

Kidney Disease

Fifty years ago, kidney disease was considered fatal and took the lives of 20,000 Americans annually, making it the fourth leading cause of death among young adults. Virtually all of the recent improvements in the care of patients with kidney disease have resulted from basic research involving the use of lab animals, including shunts, blood pressure management, immunosuppression drugs, and kidney stone removal.

Epilepsy

Doctors now have 20 anti-seizure medicines available to the 2.3 million adults and 450,000 children living with epilepsy in the U.S. Additionally, surgical treatments for epilepsy are effective for some. None of these new treatments would be approved for human use unless their safety had been first tested in animals.

Vision

A team of Swiss scientists recently restored sight in blind lab mice by injecting new, light sensing cells into their eyes. They’re working to develop a cure for acquired blindness in people. With the aging of the baby-boomer generation, the United States is on the verge of a low-vision epidemic. More than 10 million Americans already have age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. AMD damages and destroys central vision, which is critical for performing everyday tasks like reading, driving, or simply recognizing the faces of loved ones. According to Prevent Blindness America, the number of adults with low vision will double over the next 30 years. If this prediction holds true, many Baby Boomers could experience a devastating loss of independence, as they grow older. Animal research — like the mouse study performed by Swiss scientists — is a crucial step toward discovering potential treatments for humans, and animals with low vision too.

Organ Transplants

The lives of thousands of kidney, liver and heart transplant recipients were prolonged and enhanced thanks to surgical advances and the development of effective immunosuppressive drugs that prevent organ rejection. In 2014 alone, more than 29,000 people received organ transplants in the U.S.

Surgery

Lifesaving procedures such as open-heart surgery, coronary artery bypass, valve replacement and the repair of congenital heart defects – surgeries developed with the help of lab animals – are now common practice.

Joint Replacements

The majority of patients who undergo successful hip and knee replacements each year no longer require the use of wheelchairs and experience less pain when walking. Companion pets, most commonly dogs, are also the recipients of successful joint replacements, which will greatly improve quality of life.

Small Pox

Smallpox, one of the worst pandemics the world has seen, was eradicated in 1980 through worldwide vaccination. Mass vaccination could resume immediately should this deadly virus ever be used by terrorists as a biological weapon. This vaccine was derived from a cattle virus known as cowpox.

Polio

The world is 99 percent of the way toward total eradication of polio. Thanks to the polio vaccine, reported polio cases have decreased to almost zero. One of the most horrifying diseases of the 20th century, about 35,000 people were diagnosed with polio each year from the 1940s to the 1950s. The polio vaccine was developed over the course of forty years of research with the help of monkeys, mice and cows.

HIV

More than 1.2 million Americans are currently living with HIV. Over the course of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, nearly 78 million people have been infected and 39 million people have died. When the epidemic began in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was universally fatal. Today, there are 31 FDA-approved antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) available to treat HIV infection and those infected with the disease are living normal lifespans with proper treatment. Researchers are currently working on an HIV vaccine in order to eradicate the disease in our lifetime. Animal models, especially monkeys, have been critical to the development of existing and future treatments for HIV/AIDS.

Parkinson's Disease

Nobel Prize-winning work with rabbits tells us much about the drug L-dopa, which is the gold standard for treating Parkinson’s disease. Deep brain stimulation, a surgical technique developed with the help of monkeys is also an effective treatment for some people living with Parkinson’s.

Aging

The current life expectancy in the United States is 78.8 years. Researchers have been studying the drug metformin, which increases the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell, to determine its effects on aging. Working with mice and the roundworm c. elegans, they observed substantial increase in the lifespan and vitality of the animals. Subjects lived to the person equivalent of 120 years. Human trials are set to start in 2016. Other research into aging is being carried out with the help of yeast, fruit flies, birds, and primates.

Malaria

Malaria is a chronic, sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. In 2013, 500,000 people died and reportedly there were 198 million cases of malaria worldwide. A new generation of drugs has been developed to fight the most severe forms of this disease, and researchers are working to develop a malaria vaccine with the help of rodents and other animal models.

Hepatitis B

More than 350 million people around the world, including 1.25 million people in the United States, are chronic carriers of hepatitis B. This virus can cause long-term, chronic illness that leads to cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and death. Hepatitis B virus infections can be prevented by vaccination and controlled by precautionary treatments – both of which were developed with the help of animals.

Hepatitis C

About 2.7 million Americans are currently suffering from chronic hepatitis C — a long-term, contagious virus that can lead to death. Some 15,000 Americans die each year from liver disease stemming from hepatitis C. Since 2012, a series of breakthrough treatments have delivered a cure for what was once a debilitating, lifelong disease. These medicines are not only faster-acting and simpler to take than previous therapies — they’re also much more effective. Previous drugs managed the condition; today’s can essentially eradicate it in sometimes as little as 12 weeks. The current hepatitis C treatments were developed with the help of mice, rats, and monkeys.

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