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October 22, 2012

Animal Models of Human Disease

The benefits of today’s health research are becoming harder to see

Humane Society International

Basic and applied biological research is responsible for the greatest proportion of animal use in laboratory experiments, accounting for approximately three-quarters of the estimated 115+ million annual total worldwide. Attempts to model human diseases in other animal species—whether to study the pathophysiology of a disorder or to develop and test the effectiveness of new candidate drugs or other therapies—are strongly represented in this area of research, and associated with many of the most severe experiments in terms of animal pain and suffering. Yet trying to mirror human diseases by artificially creating symptoms in animals such as mice, rats, rabbits, dogs and monkeys has major scientific limitations. Very often the symptoms and responses to potential treatments seen in other species are dissimilar to those of human patients.


Harnessing opportunities in non-animal asthma research for a 21st-century science

Drug Discovery Today, Volume 16, pages 914-27, November 2011
Gemma L Buckland

The incidence of asthma is on the increase and calls for research are growing, yet asthma is a disease that scientists are still trying to come to grips with. Asthma research has relied heavily on animal use; however, in light of increasingly robust in vitro and computational models and the need to more fully incorporate the ‘Three Rs’ principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement, is it time to reassess the asthma research paradigm? Progress in non-animal research techniques is reaching a level where commitment and integration are necessary. READ MORE »


Can animal models of disease reliably inform human studies?

PLoS Medicine, Volume 7, page 514, March 2010
H Bart van der Worp, David W Howells, Emily S Sena, et al.

Animal experiments have contributed much to our understanding of mechanisms of disease, but their value in predicting the effectiveness of treatment strategies in clinical trials has remained controversial. In fact, clinical trials are essential because animal studies do not predict with sufficient certainty what will happen in humans. In a review of animal studies published in seven leading scientific jour- nals of high impact, about one-third of the studies translated at the level of human randomised trials, and one-tenth of the interventions, were subsequently approved for use in patients. However, these were studies of high impact (median citation count, 889), and less frequently cited animal research probably has a lower likelihood of translation to the clinic. READ MORE »


Experimental allergic encephalomyelitis: A misleading model of Multiple Sclerosis

Annals of Neurology, Volume 58, page 939-45, 2005
Subramaniam Sriram and Israel Steiner

Despite many years of intensive research, multiple sclerosis (MS) defies understanding and treatment remains subopti- mal. The prevailing hypothesis is that MS is immune mediated and that experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) is a suitable model to elucidate pathogenesis and devise therapy. This review examines critically the validity that EAE is an adequate and useful animal model of MS and finds credible evidence lacking. EAE represents more a model of acute central nervous system inflammation than the counterpart of MS. We propose to reconsider the utilization of EAE, especially when this model is used to define therapy. This will also force us to examine MS without the restraints imposed by EAE, as to what it is, rather than what it looks like. READ MORE »


In search of a depressed mouse: utility of models for studying depression-related behavior in genetically modified mice

Molecular Psychiatry, Volume 9, page 326-57, 2004
JF Cryan and C Mombereau

The ability to modify mice genetically has been one of the major breakthroughs in modern medical science affecting every discipline including psychiatry. ... In this review, we will focus on the utility of current models (eg forced swim test, tail suspension test, olfactory bulbectomy, learned helplessness, chronic mild stress, drug-withdrawal-induced anhedonia) and research strategies aimed at investigating novel targets relevant to depression in the mouse. We will focus on key questions that are considered relevant for examining the utility of such models. Further, we describe other avenues of research that may give clues as to whether indeed a genetically modified animal has alterations relevant to clinical depression. READ MORE »


Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?

British Medical Journal, Volume 328, page 514, February 2004
Pandora Pound, Shah Ebrahim, Michael B Bracken, Ian Roberts

Much animal research into potential treatments for humans is wasted because it is poorly conducted and not evaluated through systematic reviews

Clinicians and the public often consider it axiomatic that animal research has contributed to the treatment of human disease, yet little evidence is available to support this view. Few methods exist for evaluating the clinical relevance or importance of basic animal research, and so its clinical (as distinct from scientific) contribution remains uncertain. Anecdotal evidence or unsupported claims are often used as justification—for example, statements that the need for animal research is “self evident” or that “Animal experimentation is a valuable research method which has proved itself over time.” Such statements are an inadequate form of evidence for such a controversial area of research. We argue that systematic reviews of existing and future research are needed. READ MORE »

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