The Importance Of Animal Research


Research on animals is important in understanding diseases
and developing ways to prevent them. The polio vaccine,
kidney transplants, and heart surgery techniques have all
been developed with the help of animal research. Through
increased efforts by the scientific community, effective
treatments for diabetes, diphtheria, and other diseases
have been developed with animal testing.
Animal research has brought a dramatic progress into
medicine. With the help of animal research, smallpox has
been wiped out worldwide. Microsurgery to reattach hearts,
lungs, and other transplants are all possible because of
animal research. Since the turn of the century, animal
research has helped increase our life-span by nearly 28
years. And now, animal research is leading to dramatic
progress against AIDS and Alzheimer's disease. 

Working with animals in research is necessary. Scientists
need to test medical treatments for effectiveness and test
new drugs for safety before beginning human testing. Small
animals, usually rats, are used to determine the possible
side effects of new drugs. After animal tests have proven
the safety of new drugs, patients asked to participate in
further studies can be assured that they may fare better,
and will not do worse than if they were given standard
treatment or no treatment.
New surgical techniques first must be carefully developed
and tested in living, breathing, whole organ systems with
pulmonary and circulatory systems much like ours. The
doctors who perform today's delicate cardiac, ear, eye,
pulmonary and brain surgeries, as well as doctors in
training, must develop the necessary skills before
patients' lives are entrusted to their care. Neither
computer models, cell cultures, nor artificial substances
can simulate flesh, muscle, blood, and organs like the ones
in live animals.
There is no alternative to animal research. Living systems
are complex. The nervous system, blood and brain chemistry,
and gland secretions are all interrelated. It is impossible
to explore, explain or predict the course of many diseases
or the effects of many treatments without observing and
testing the entire living system.
Cell and tissue cultures, often suggested as "alternatives"
to using animals, have been used in medical research for
many years. But these are only isolated tests. And isolated
tests will yield only isolated results, which may bear
little relation to a whole living system. Scientists do not
yet know enough about living systems or diseases, nor does
the technology exist, to replicate one on a computer. The
information required to build a true computer model in the
future will be based on data drawn from today's animal
Primates represent only about 1/3 of 1 percent of animals
in research. But during the last half century, research
using primates has led to major medical breakthroughs, most
notably in the treatment of polio and Rh disease. Vaccines
have reduced the cases of polio in the U.S. from 58,000 to
one or two a year at present.
Scientists are learning how the Human Immunodeficiency
Virus (HIV) works by studying its non-human primate
counterpart, the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in
monkeys. The SIV model is useful in testing drugs for AIDS.
In addition, the HIV virus survives in certain kinds of
monkeys and although it does not kill the animals, it can
be removed from them. This may prove useful in testing an
AIDS vaccine.
Researchers are studying rhesus macaque monkeys to explore
ways to reduce multiple organ failure following hypotensive
shock, a loss of blood pressure due to loss of blood.
Researchers have hypothesized that damage to the organs
occur within the first few minutes after blood flow is
reestablished, when a certain kind of white blood cell
attaches to walls of blood vessels and releases toxic
substances. The researchers reasoned that if, just before
blood flow is reestablished, a substance that prevents the
white blood cells from attaching to the vessel walls were
injected into the blood stream, it might prevent the
release of their toxic contents and avoid multiple organ
damage. It is expected that this new technique will prove
effective in human patients.
Researchers are studying obesity in monkeys in hopes of
finding a way to control body weight. Scientist are also
using monkeys to study Taurine deficiency, which causes
vision problems, and zinc deficiency, which causes growth
retardation among infants and fetuses.
Researchers are currently studying to see whether reduced
caloric intake can slow the rate of aging. This effect has
already been observed in lower animals, and if it holds
true in primates, it would be a strong indication that
humans might be able to increase their life spans by eating
Primates have the same number and relative size of teeth as
humans. Macaque monkeys have been studied by dental
researchers to link a specific bacterium to the growth of
periodontitis, which affects 75 percent of all adults and
causes 70 percent of adult tooth loss. A non-steroidal,
anti-inflammatory drug, flurbiprofen, has been shown to be
effective in halting the progression of periodontal disease.
Since the 1920s, scientists have studied primates in order
to understand their ability to communicate. They have
discovered that chimpanzees and other apes have the ability
to learn and use language.
Scientists already have applied their findings toward
developing a special language for severely mentally
retarded children, as well as young adults with little or
no linguistic competence, who cannot learn language as
normal children do.
People should ensure that an end is not put to progress in
animal research. Biomedical researchers know that an animal
in distress is simply not a good research subject.
Researchers are embarked on an effort to alleviate misery,
not cause it.


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