Animal experimentation for medical research. Animal testing for medical treatment. Pros and cons
Animal experimentation is a purposeful action performed by humans on animals for some purpose.
History. Experiments on animals for medical purposes
The history of animal experiments goes back to ancient Greece to Aristotle and others.
- Galenos has elucidated a number of anatomical structures and physiological functions through animal dissections and operations on live animals.
- The anatomist and physician Vesalius made use of vivisection* and laid the foundations of comparative anatomy. *Vivisection is an autopsy on a live animal or human.
- William Harvey, thanks to animal studies, clarified the function of the circulatory system and the heart.
The use of animals in experiments continued to increase with the expansion of Science in the 18th and 19th centuries. Without experiments on animals, even the well-known discoveries of the first vaccines of Louis Pasteur did not do.
The 20th century brought many discoveries in medicine thanks to animal studies:
- discovery of insulin,
- new vaccines
- introduction of new surgical procedures,
- the use of artificial tissues or transplants, etc.
In 1959, biologists Russell and Burch defined the principles for the responsible and reasonable use of animals in the experiment – the so-called concept of 3R (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement).
Experiments on animals in medicine. Today’s time
- Animal experiments in developed countries today must always be based on this concept, in order to respect animal welfare and to avoid unnecessary animal suffering.
- The essence of the concept is: to use animals in the experiment only if there is no other alternative, and to use, if possible, animals at the lowest possible phylogenetic level (mice instead of primates, invertebrates instead of mice, etc.).
- Striving for the lowest possible number of animals in the experiment, avoiding unnecessary repetition of experiments, refinement of the experiment using non-invasive techniques, anesthesia and analgesia thanks to the still discussed ethics of experiments on animals, a number of changes are also taking place in this area.
The protection of animal rights enshrined in legislation, the use of anesthesia and analgesia in experiments or the replacement of experiments with alternative methods have led to a reduction in the number of experiments, the elimination of inhumane treatment or a complete ban on the use of apes in experiments in most developed countries.
Importance of experiments. Animals used for medical testing
- Animal experiments are an important part of basic and Applied Research in medicine and biology, agriculture and can also contribute to the protection of the environment.
- Animals also played an important role in the early days of space exploration. The first living creature outside our planet was the dog Laika, plotted during the Sputnik 2 mission.
- Today, mice and rats play a dominant role in medical research.
- The advantage of using mice in medical research lies in the low cost of breeding, the high reproductive potential of mice, but above all in the considerable genetic similarity of humans and mice, mouse and Human share more than 99% of genes.
- Thanks to our knowledge of the human and mouse genomes, we can use mouse models to know and understand the function of all human genes, the nature of genetically determined diseases, and propose new forms of therapy and diagnosis of human and animal diseases.
- Larger animals, in turn, are needed for the development of new surgical procedures or the testing of organ transplants, etc.: pigs and dogs are still an indispensable method of research. Rabbits and guinea pigs are used to produce antibodies, complement and other components of serum.
Legislation. Animal testing for medical research
Animal experiments are defined and legislatively anchored in European and Czech law.
In the EU, the use of experimental animals is regulated by Directive 2010/63 / EU, in the Czech Republic Act No. 246/1992 Coll. to protect animals from abuse. Both laws include the obligation to use an alternative method instead of an animal experiment whenever it is approved and available.
Which animals can be experimenters?
The experimental animal by law is understood to be a living vertebrate, with the exception of humans, including self-feeding larval forms and mammalian fruits.
Experiment means any invasive or non-invasive use of an animal for experimental or other scientific purposes with known or unknown outcome or for educational purposes that may cause pain, suffering or lasting harm to the animal.
Killing an animal solely for the use of its organs or tissues shall not be considered an attempt.
For what purposes are experiments carried out on animals
1) Basic research
2) Translational or applied research:
- prevention, treatment and diagnosis of diseases of humans, animals and plants
- improving the living and production conditions of animals kept for agricultural purposes,
- in the development, manufacture or testing of the quality, efficacy and safety of medicines, food, feed and other substances or products.
3) protection of the natural environment in the interest of human or animal health or welfare
4) research aimed at the conservation of species
5) higher education or training to acquire, maintain or improve professional knowledge
- Conversely, the use of animals in the manufacture or testing of any weapons, or in the manufacture of cosmetic product is prohibited
Experiments on animals for medical purposes. Reasons against using animals
1) unreliable animal testing
- 95% of drugs fail in human clinical trials despite promising results in animal trials; either because they are dangerous or simply because they do not work.
- A recent study showed that out of 93 dangerous side effects of drugs, only 19% were recognized in animal tests.
- The study also showed that the use of mice and rats for drug safety tests is only 43% reliable.
2) animal testing for new medical treatments. unnecessary testing on animals.
- Although more than 115 million animals are used in experiments around the world each year, the main regulator of medicines – the US Food and Drug Administration – approves on average only 25 new drugs each year. Many of them relate to rare diseases.
- Even those drugs that are approved are not universally effective because of individual reactions – the ten drugs with the most sales revenue in the U.S. help only 1 in 4 to 1 in 25 patients who take them.
3) animals are different from humans
- Animals do not contract many of the diseases that we do, such as Parkinson’s disease, most heart diseases, many cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV or schizophrenia.
- Animal testing for medicine production. Aspirin is toxic to many animal species, including cats, mice and rats. If it had been tested according to current animal testing standards, it would not have been in our pharmacies.