Indispensable Lab Animals

Animal research has a pivotal contribution to a large number of scientific advances and continues to aid our understanding. The use of animals coincides with the development of medicine as far as experimental research is concerned and numbers of vertebrates are used annually worldwide in research and diagnostics. Mice, rats, guineapigs, rabbits are the most commonly used experimental animals for study in health and disease because of their easy adaptability to changing environments, low nutritional requirements and higher reproductive rates. Discoveries in science are being made possible globally at the cost of life of these animals. 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. Previously animals were used predominantly to enhance the understanding of living animals only, but it was during the 18th and 19th centuries that the development of animal models expanded, and many scientists such as Francesco Redi, Jean Baptiste, Van Helmont, John Needham, Lazzaro Spallanzani, Pasteur, and Lavoisier conducted animal experiments to study the origin of life (Oparin 1957). Most laboratory animals have the same set of organs – heart, lungs, liver, etc which work in the same way as they do in humans. Animals can be used role models for safety testing of chemicals and drugs, study of genetic disorders, development of new diagnostic tests for diseases in biology and medical education. However, increased concern for the welfare of the animals used, and a growing awareness of the concept of animal rights, has brought a greater focus on the related ethical issues. It is important to note that animal experimentation requires ethical considerations which are necessarily to be kept in mind prior to scientific interests. Researchers must have a complete understanding of the animal model being used, and of the biology and behaviour of that specie. Animal experiments should only be carried out when there is absolute need of knowledge that will be useful for saving or prolonging life or alleviate suffering.  Reduction, refinement and replacement are the three basic principles to be understood before carrying animal oriented experimentations. By reduction it means to use reduced number of animals in research that can be achieved by proper planning of experiments and correctly analysis of significance of results. When we talk of refinement it strictly encompass measures that avoid animal suffering by application of non invasive techniques, use of anaesthetic, analgesics, provision of comfort, proper handling and adequate care to animals. As far as Replacement is concerned it incorporates substitution of animals with other models, such as other invertebrates or microorganisms, cell cultures, organs or even cellular fractions.

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 Since the behavioural, physiological, anatomical and neurological similarities between animals and humans exist, there are always sufficient grounds for the scientific researches and further biomedical advancement to happen. Millions of animal species have been used in research, drug testing, heath and education in the field of medical science and for the improvement of the quality of life. The ethical guidelines have facilitated better care and management of animals, decreasing degree of animal suffering, reduction in number of animal used, the accuracy of results and many developments in various aspects of laboratory animal science. Humane consideration for the well being of the animal should be envisaged into the design and conduct of all procedures involving animals. Animal research had a key role in many scientific and medical advances of the past century and continues to support our comprehensions about various diseases. 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. Generally it is very difficult to feel the lab animal pain while experimenting on them but certain signs and symptoms are helpful to ascertain that animal is in trouble or pain which include hunched posture of animal, reduced grooming and ruffled fur, aggressive behaviour reduced level of spontaneous activity, falling, poor gait and twitching, abdominal pressing to ground, reduced food and water intake, staining around nose and/or eyes, squinty and pale eyes, back arching behaviour etc. Conclusively it would be inappropriate and inconsistent to necessitate animal research without having any knowledge about animal pain and ethics.

Author is Veterinary Assistant Surgeon, Govt. of J &K (Mvsc. Surgery)