Animal Models and Biomedical Research

There is strong relationship between rapid progress in experimentation on animals and advancements in clinical medicine. The greatest achievements in medicine in 19th and 20th century were possible due to use of animals in experimentation. Animal experimentation results not only benefit humans, but many such results also benefit animals directly and indirectly. Most of the animals that benefit from such research are mostly domestic or pets and companion animals. Each year there are breakthroughs and new treatments, credit mostly to animal research e.g Herceptin (targeted cancer drug) for breast cancer treatment, Ebola vaccine development. Animals from fruit fly to mouse are widely used in scientific research. Different species of experimental animals widely used around the world include mice, rats guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs, fishes, non-human primates etc                Animal experimentation is crucial for allowing scientists to learn more about human biology, for research purpose and for developing new medicine. Over the past century, the mouse (Mus Musculus) has become preferred animal model for genetic research. Mouse has many similarities to humans in terms of anatomy, physiology and genetics. The short lifespan and rapid breeding of mice are particularly useful as they allow us to understand effects on future generations. Mouse genome is similar to humans, making mouse genetic research particularly useful for study of human diseases. Animal experimentation and investigation have laid milestone in learning about the most widespread diseases like heart disease and cancer, as well as to gain basic knowledge in genetics, physiology, and other life sciences. Various neurological studies nowadays are taking pace only because of use of animals in biomedical research. Laboratory animals are particularly used to study the efficacy and safety of compounds produced in different industries including drug, cosmetic and chemical industries. Use of animals in research is essential for enabling researchers to develop new drug treatments. From vaccines to transplants, animals have been serving medicine and biomedical advances. It is the knowledge attained directly or indirectly through research with animals that prevention, control and cure of disease is achievable. Animal systems provide invaluable and irreplaceable insights into human systems because of the noticeable similarities between the genetic makeup and physiological systems of animals and humans. Animal models have been employed in experimental research to enhance human knowledge and subscribe to finding solutions to various biological and biomedical challenges. Legally all drugs have to be tested on animals for safety before they can be used in humans. Currently animal testing is a compulsory legal part of drug testing. Removing animals completely from labs would hamper the understanding of health and disease, and consequently affect the development of new and vital treatments. Different types of procedures are opted for animal experimentation. Some animals may undergo some surgical procedures so as to find effectiveness of new techniques. Throughout the world, people enjoy a better quality of life because of these advances, and the subsequent development of new medicines and treatments which is made possible by animal research.

Prior to the conduct of any research on lab animals, comfort of animals is an essential part as far as animal ethics is concerned so the maintenance facilities of animals must be accurately designed, constructed, equipped and maintained to access a quality standard of animal care. Provision for proper veterinary care using appropriate procedures to control diseases (e.g. vaccination and prophylaxis, isolation and quarantine), correct diagnoses, and treat diseases and injuries and routine observation of all animals to evaluate their health care and wellbeing must be taken care. All the surgical procedures, either minor or major, need to be strictly undertaken under the supervision of an expert veterinarian (Rollin 2009). Prior to beginning of any research programme on animals the most important responsibilities of researchers in an animal experiment is pain minimization, prevention of  distress to animals, prevent unacceptable study end points i.e. death as an end-point is often ethically unacceptable and should be fully justified. Use of animals for research purpose have although saved human lives, decreased human suffering, helped in understanding  scientific phenomena but at same time the pain and distress caused to lab animals for research purpose cannot be ignored and invites controversy from very long.

In the end, ethics in animal experimentation is crucial part to prevent any undue animal suffering and pain, ethical committees need to be reviewed and made functional to examine the details of research on animals to be conducted and to ensure animal comfort and solace. Results can be generated by animal testing is a fact that will be useful for treating disease in humans. However, the use of non human subjects for biomedical research still forms an area of intense debate.

Author is a Veterinary Officer