Magazine article Insight on the News

Limiting Animal Research Would Be Cruelty to Humans. (Fair Comment)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Limiting Animal Research Would Be Cruelty to Humans. (Fair Comment)

Article excerpt

Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century, for both human and animal health. From antibiotics to blood transfusions, from dialysis to organ transplantation, from vaccinations to chemotherapy, bypass surgery and joint replacement, practically every present-day protocol for the prevention, treatment, cure and control of disease, pain and suffering is based on knowledge attained through research on animals.

In the United States, the animal-rights movement is a vocal anti-research element that discounts the importance of animal studies, claiming that the results of animal research can't be applied to human health. Physicians and researchers overwhelmingly agree, however, that animal systems provide invaluable and irreplaceable insights into human systems because there are striking similarities between our physiological and genetic makeup.

Approximately 95 percent of all lab animals are specialty-bred rats and mice. Nonhuman primates account for less than one-quarter of 1 percent. Dogs and cats combined also account for less than one-half of 1 percent. The balance includes rabbits, guinea pigs, woodchucks, pigs, sheep, armadillos, leeches, zebra fish, squid, horseshoe crabs, sea snails and fruit flies.

Rodents are the model of choice for medical researchers because they have a naturally short life span--two to three years--that allows scientists to observe in "fast forward" what happens during the progress, or pathogenesis, of a disease. Advances in genetic engineering have enabled scientists to develop excellent rodent models for research. The availability of "transgenic" mice (which have added genes) and "knockout" mice (which have disabled genes) has revolutionized our understanding of cancer, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, memory loss, muscular dystrophy and spinal-cord injuries. The so-called "nude" mouse--lacking a functioning immune system--has become an incredibly important model for understanding cancer suppression.

Thanks to animal research, many diseases that once killed millions of people every year are either treatable or have been eradicated. Immunizations against polio, diphtheria, mumps, rubella and hepatitis save countless lives, and the survival rates from many major diseases are at an all-time high thanks to the discovery of new drugs, medical devices and surgical procedures. …

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