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Manual The Importance of Animal Experimentation for Safety and Biomedical Research

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More than 5 billion animals are killed in the United States each year as a source of food. Animals are used for transportation, for sport, for recreation, and for companionship. Animals are also used to learn more about living things and about the illnesses that afflict human beings and other animals. By studying animals, it is possible to obtain information that cannot be learned in any other way.

When a new drug or surgical technique is developed, society deems it unethical to use that drug or technique first in human beings because of the possibility that it would cause harm rather than good. Instead, the drug or technique is tested in animals to make sure that it is safe and effective.

Why Are Animals Used in Research? | Science, Medicine, and Animals | The National Academies Press

Animals also offer experimental models that would be impossible to replicate using human subjects. Animals can be fed identical and closely monitored diets. As with inbred mice, members of some animal species are genetically identical, enabling researchers to compare different procedures on identical animals. Some animals have biological similarities to humans that make them particularly good models for specific diseases, such as rabbits for atherosclerosis or monkeys for polio. The polio vaccine was developed, and its safety is still tested, in monkeys.

Animal Experiments in Biomedical Research: A Historical Perspective

Animals are also indispensable to the rapidly growing field of biotechnology, where they are used to develop, test, and make new products such as monoclonal antibodies. Researchers draw upon the full range of living things to study life, from bacteria to human beings.

But researchers also investigate a wide range of animal species, from insects and nematodes to dogs, cats, and monkeys. Harry Harlow's "maternal deprivation" experiments involved separating infant monkeys from their mothers at birth and rearing them in total isolation or with "surrogate" mothers made of wire and cloth. Their terror and subsequent psychopathology, Harlow claimed, demonstrated the importance of maternal contact. However, this had been shown conclusively in human studies.

Animal models of alcohol and other drug addiction are similarly ill-conceived, failing to reflect crucial social, hereditary and spiritual factors. Pharmacologist Vincent Dole has acknowledged, "Some 60 years of offering alcohol to animals has produced no fundamental insights into the causes of this self-destructive behavior or even a convincing analogue of pathological drinking.

A review of two clinical psychology journals revealed that only 33 of 4, citations 0. Scientists have located the genetic defects of many inherited diseases, including cystic fibrosis and familial breast cancer. Trying to "model" these diseases in animals, researchers widely use animals - mostly mice - with spontaneous or laboratory-induced genetic defects.

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However, genetic diseases reflect interactions between the defective gene and other genes and the environment. Consequently, nearly all such models have failed to reproduce the essential features of the analogous human conditions. Numerous standard animal toxicity tests have been widely criticized by clinicians and toxicologists.

The lethal dose 50 LD50 , which determines how much of a drug, chemical, or household product is needed to kill 50 percent of a group of test animals, requires 60 to animals usually rats and mice , most of whom endure great suffering. Because of difficulties extrapolating the results to humans, the test is highly unreliable.

The Draize eye irritancy test, in which unanesthetized rabbits have irritant substances applied to their eyes, yield results that are inherently unreliable in predicting human toxicity. Indeed, when comparing rabbit to human data on duration of eye inflammation after exposure to 14 household products, they differed by a factor of 18 to Animal tests for cancer-causing substances, generally involving rodents, are also notoriously unreliable.

Science editor Philip Abelson has asked, "Are humans to be regarded as behaving biochemically like huge, obese, inbred, cancer-prone rodents? Of 19 known human oral carcinogens, only 7 caused cancer in nonhuman animals using the standard NCI protocol. When Lester Lave et al. An international study demonstrated that in vitro tests are more sensitive and more accurate than animal tests.

Animal laboratories are not necessary for teaching biologic and medical material, and studies have demonstrated repeatedly their lack of pedagogic superiority. During surgical training, medical students and residents properly begin to learn procedures by observing human operations because of the human's unique anatomical features.

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WHY ANIMAL RESEARCH?

To perfect manual skills - such as cutting and suturing - surgical training has traditionally relied on carefully monitored work with human patients. When this is not practical, creative use of human tissues can be an alternative. For example, students can practice microsurgery with human placental tissue.

Animal studies can neither confirm nor refute hypotheses about human physiology or pathology; human clinical investigation is the only way such hypotheses can be tested. At best, animal experiments can suggest new hypotheses that might be relevant to humans. How valuable is vivisection?


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The Medical Research Modernization Committee's review of ten randomly chosen animal models of human diseases did not reveal any important contributions to human health. Also, the study found that treatments effective in animals tended to have poor efficacy or excessive side-effects in human patients. MRMC's reviews have revealed that, because animal models differ from human diseases, researchers tend to investigate those aspects of the animal's condition that resemble features of the human disease, generally ignoring or discounting fundamental anatomical, physiological, and pathological differences.

Because most disease processes have system-wide effects and involve many interacting factors, focusing on only one aspect of a disease belies the actual complexity of biological organisms.

In contrast to human clinical investigation, vivisection involves manipulations of artificially induced conditions. Furthermore, the highly unnatural laboratory environment invariably stresses the animals, and stress affects the entire organism by altering pulse, blood pressure, hormone levels, immunological activities, and myriad other functions. Animal tests frequently mislead. In animal tests of saccharin's carcinogenicity, the weight-adjusted daily saccharin dose given to rats was equivalent to a human's consuming about 1, cans of saccharin-containing soda.

Such massive dosing itself can result in cancers, irrespective of a compound's actual carcinogenicity at typical human exposure levels. It was later found that male rats possess a protein in greater quantity than female rats and lacking in humans that interacted with saccharin to form irritating crystals in the male rats' bladders that caused cancer. The fact that some rats developed cancers did not and cannot clarify whether or not saccharin causes cancer in humans.

Scientists recognize that, just within humans, gender, ethnicity, age, and health status can profoundly influence drug effects. Consequently, animal studies are reliable at only the crudest levels - such as the ability of strong acids to damage eyes. However, such effects can be assessed easily with in vitro systems. For more subtle effects, animal models are unreliable. In addition to squandering scarce resources and providing misleading results, vivisection poses real risks to humans. The mindset that scientific knowledge justifies and may require harming innocent individuals endangers all who are vulnerable.

Animal Testing

Even after Nazi and Japanese experiments on prisoners horrified the world, American researchers denied African-American men syphilis treatment in order to assess the disease's natural progression, injected cancer cells into nursing home patients, subjected unwitting patients to dangerous radiation experiments, and, despite no chance of success, transplanted nonhuman primate and porcine hearts into children, chronically ill, and impoverished people. Furthermore, through animal research, humans have been exposed to a wide variety of deadly nonhuman primate viruses.

About 16 laboratory workers have been killed by the Marburg virus and other monkey viruses, and there have been two outbreaks of Ebola in American monkey colonies. The experiment was unsuccessful; moreover, a large number of baboon viruses, which the patient could spread to other people, may have accompanied the bone marrow.

Indeed, vivisection may have started the AIDS epidemic. HIV-1, the principal AIDS virus, is unlike any virus found in nature, and there is considerable evidence that its most likely source is either through polio vaccine production using monkey tissues , or manufacture in American laboratories, where HIV-like viruses were being produced by cancer and biological weapons researchers in the early s.

Failing to learn from the AIDS epidemic, many policy makers and industrial interests support animal-to-human organ transplants from pigs and primates known as xenotransplants. These have failed in the past, and are likely to continue to fail, because of tissue rejection, the impossibility of testing animal tissues for unknown pathogens, and the prohibitive expense.

Relatedly, the growing field of genetic engineering includes adding genetic material to animals' cells to change the animals' growth patterns or induce the animals to produce human proteins in their milk, blood or urine. They are crucial for allowing scientists to learn more about human biology and health, and for developing new medicines. The use of animals in scientific research has long been the subject of heated debate. On the one hand it is considered morally wrong to use animals in this way solely for human benefit.

On the other hand, removing animals completely from the lab would impede our understanding of health and disease, and consequently affect the development of new and vital treatments. Although sometimes these studies do reduce the quality of life of these animals, thorough regulations are in place to ensure that they are carried out in a humane way. These are:. Below you can find many of the arguments being made for and against the use of animals in the laboratory, some you are probably already aware of and some you may not have thought about… what do you think?

A model organism is a species that has been widely studied, usually because it is easy to maintain and breed in a laboratory setting and has particular experimental advantages. Selective breeding involves selecting parents that have characteristics of interest in the hope that their offspring inherit those desirable characteristics. The zebrafish Danio rerio has become a popular model organism only relatively recently. It is a tropical fish from the minnow family with a genetic structure surprisingly similar to ours.

Humans and mice share many common genetic features and by examining the physiology, anatomy and metabolism of a mouse, scientists can gain a valuable insight into how humans function. Humans have been breeding animals for millenia to bring out desirable characteristics. With the thoroughbred race horse there's lots of money at stake but with research mice it's the possibility of life-saving new treatments. Can you spare minutes to tell us what you think of this website? Open survey. In: Debates Animals and Plants. These are: R eplace: Replacing, where possible, experiments using animals with alternative techniques such as cell culture, computer modelling or human volunteers instead of animals.

R efine: Refining the way the animals are cared for to help minimise any stress or pain, by using less invasive techniques where possible and improving medical care and living conditions. Are animal models useful? Yes Scientists have been able to advance their knowledge of human and animal health and disease dramatically by studying model organisms. Antibiotics , insulin , vaccines , organ transplantation and HIV treatment have all been developed with the help of experiments involving animals.