Animal Research Term Paper

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by: Josh Wakefield

Research on animals is important in understanding diseases and

developing ways to prevent them. The polio vaccine, kidney transplants,

and heart surgery techniques have all been developed with the help of

animal research. Through increased efforts by the scientific community,

effective treatments for diabetes, diphtheria, and other diseases have been

developed with animal testing.

Animal research has brought a dramatic progress into medicine.

With the help of animal research, smallpox has been wiped out worldwide.

Micro-surgery to reattach hearts, lungs, and other transplants are all

possible because of animal research. Since the turn of the century,

animal research has helped increase our life-span by nearly 28 years.

And now, animal research is leading to dramatic progress against AIDS and

Alzheimer's disease.

Working with animals in research is necessary. Scientists need to

test medical treatments for effectiveness and test new drugs for safety

before beginning human testing. Small animals, usually rats, are used to

determine the possible side effects of new drugs. After animal tests have

proven the safety of new drugs, patients asked to participate in further

studies can be assured that they may fare better, and will not do worse

than if they were given standard treatment or no treatment.

New surgical techniques first must be carefully developed and

tested in living, breathing, whole organ systems with pulmonary and

circulatory systems much like ours. The doctors who perform today's

delicate cardiac, ear, eye, pulmonary and brain surgeries, as well as

doctors in training, must develop the necessary skills before patients'

lives are entrusted to their care. Neither computer models, cell cultures,

nor artificial substances can simulate flesh, muscle, blood, and organs like

the ones in live animals.

There is no alternative to animal research. Living systems are

complex. The nervous system, blood and brain chemistry, and gland

secretions are all interrelated. It is impossible to explore, explain or

predict the course of many diseases or the effects of many treatments

without observing and testing the entire living system.

Cell and tissue cultures, often suggested as "alternatives" to using

animals, have been used in medical research for many years. But these are

only isolated tests. And isolated tests will yield only isolated results,

which may bear little relation to a whole living system. Scientists do not

yet know enough about living systems or diseases, nor does the technology

exist, to replicate one on a computer. The information required to build

a true computer model in the future will be based on data drawn from

today's animal studies.

Primates represent only about 1/3 of 1 percent of animals in

research. But during the last half century, research using primates has

led to major medical breakthroughs, most notably in the treatment of polio

and Rh disease. Vaccines have reduced the cases of polio in the U.S. from

58,000 to one or two a year at present.

Scientists are learning how the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

works by studying its non-human primate counterpart, the Simian

Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in monkeys. The SIV model is useful in

testing drugs for AIDS. In addition, the HIV virus survives in certain

kinds of monkeys and although it does not kill the animals, it can be

removed from them. This may prove useful in testing an AIDS vaccine.

Researchers are studying rhesus macaque monkeys to explore ways

to reduce multiple organ failure following hypotensive shock, a loss of

blood pressure due to loss of blood. Researchers have hypothesized that

damage to the organs occur within the first few minutes after blood flow

is reestablished, when a certain kind of white blood cell attaches to

walls of blood vessels and releases toxic substances. The researchers

reasoned that if, just before blood flow is reestablished, a substance

that prevents the white blood cells from attaching to the vessel walls

were injected into the blood stream, it might prevent the release of their

toxic contents and avoid multiple organ damage. It is expected that this

new technique will prove effective in human patients.

Researchers are studying obesity in monkeys in hopes of finding a

way to control body weight. Scientist are also using monkeys to study

Taurine deficiency, which causes vision problems, and zinc deficiency,

which causes growth retardation among infants and fetuses.

Researchers are currently studying to see whether reduced caloric

intake can slow the rate of aging. This effect has already been observed

in lower animals, and if it holds true in primates, it would be a strong

indication that humans might be able to increase their life spans by eating


Primates have the same number and relative size of teeth as humans.

Macaque monkeys have been studied by dental researchers to link a specific

bacterium to the growth of periodontitis, which affects 75 percent of all

adults and causes 70 percent of adult tooth loss. A non-steroidal,

anti-inflammatory drug, flurbiprofen, has been shown to be effective in

halting the progression of periodontal disease.

Since the 1920s, scientists have studied primates in order to

understand their ability to communicate. They have discovered that

chimpanzees and other apes have the ability to learn and use language.

Scientists already have applied their findings toward developing a special

language for severely mentally retarded children, as well as young adults

with little or no linguistic competence, who cannot learn language as

normal children do.

People should ensure that an end is not put to progress in animal

research. Biomedical researchers know that an animal in distress is simply

not a good research subject. Researchers are embarked on an effort to

alleviate misery, not cause it. And remember, if we want to defeat the

killer diseases that still confront us, such as AIDS and Alzheimer's,

cancer, heart disease, and many others, the misguided fanatics of the

animal-rights movement must be stopped. Think about it, it could some day

be your life or your children's.

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