What Information Can Be Learned From Nonhuman Animal Studies Research Paper

Pages: 7 (2308 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Animals

¶ … Nonhuman Animal Studies?

Animal testing represents an important subject for debate and confrontation between those that support the medical testing on animals especially from the point-of-view of the added value it brings and those that argue the rights of animals as beings with rights and in need of equal treatment as humans. There are numerous arguments suggesting that medical testing on animals has produced results that today are essential for the well-being of the human race such as treatments for HIV / AIDS, cancer, or birth defects. On the other hand, those arguing for the interdiction of animal testing suggest that animals, such as any other being on Earth, have the same rights and status as human beings. These types of arguments however are more based on the emotional side of the implications and side effects of animal testing.

The issue of testing on animals has become one of the most talked about subjects of current debates related to medicine, pharmaceutical initiatives, improvements, and development as well as cosmetics. This represents a sensitive subject particularly because it sets in opposition these industries and animal rights protection groups. I chose this topic precisely because of its controversy and the heated discussions surrounding the added value brought by the tests conducted on animals.

There has been a lot of criticism over the way in which medicine considers animal testing as being a step in advancing new drugs. The debates focus not only on the efficiency or lack of it in terms of the results of animal testing but also on the rights of animals not to be tortured or subjected to treatments that would otherwise be considered inhuman.

One of the main criticisms brought to animal testing is related to its limited results that would be relevant to humans. In this sense, "One extreme view holds that information gathered from animal research cannot, even in principle, be used to improve human health. It is often accompanied by catchy slogans such as "If society funds mouse models of cancer, we will find more cures for cancer in mice." It is argued that the physiology of animals and humans are too different to allow results from animal research to be extrapolated to humans" (Ringach, 2011) the main argument behind this assumption is provided by the fact that humans and animals are different in structure, composition, and reaction and the information gathered from tests ran on animals cannot be applied or used to assist human medicine.

In fighting this argument, it can be stated that, despite the differences between humans and animals, there are a lot of similarities at the level of the living mechanisms that are relatively common in humans and animals. From this point-of-view, one of the most significant contribution of the testing conducted on animals refer to the development of essential medicine. More precisely, "Anticoagulants were first isolated in dogs; insulin was discovered in dogs and purified in rabbits; lung surfactants were first extracted and studied in dogs; rabbits were used in the development of in vitro fertilization; mice in the development of efficient breast cancer drugs" (Ringach, 2011).

Another type of information and added value for the testing on animals is related to the actual study of the animals and the association of the mechanisms with that of the human being. It is believed that, although at a first glance there is a significant difference in terms of species and evolution, certain similarities can benefit medicine. A clear example in this sense is represented by the testing conducted on mice in order to develop the Pollo vaccine. Therefore, "More recently mice have been genetically engineered to have the receptors for the virus, providing animal models of the disease. Despite the many differences between mice and humans, the use of genetically modified (GM) mice to establish the virulence of the vaccine provides an accurate model of humans in this respect" (the Royal Society, 2004). Although significant improvements have taken place as a result of animal testing, the idea of genetic modification of animals to suit a certain medical purpose represents one of the fiercest oppositions argued by the animal rights protection organizations.

Yet another argument in the debate over the fairness and necessity of tests conducted on animals is related to their actual relevance. In this sense, "Medical researchers in particular face the challenge of allegations that the use of animals for scientific research is not necessary and that it is possible to develop new drugs in the test-tube or even by computer. (…) the use of non-animal alternatives can help to enhance the research using animals but is a poor substitute for the high levels of complexity provided by use of whole animals." (the Royal Society, 2004) Therefore, despite the fact that there may be situations in which animals can be substituted by other testing materials, computer simulation for instance (Ringach, 2011), the need for a full working mechanism such as the entire body of an animal is essential because it provides the necessary complete image of the processes that take place inside a living body with all its implications.

Despite the criticism, there is sufficient information that is being provided to humanity through animal testing. On the one hand, the fact that scientists have the opportunity to observe, on the long run, the effects and side effects of certain chemical or natural combination provides important input for the actual benefits of the respective drug to the human being. This is not to say that every data must be considered as valid for the human being as well; however, the added value of the information provided does not rest solely in the immediate applicability on the human beings. It can provide further information for the elaboration of studies on similar areas of expertise. Therefore, "If one compares the genomes of the mouse and humans, one finds that there is a mouse homologue for 99% of human genes, and of the genes implicated in human disease processes, 90% are present in the mouse. As a consequence of this degree of similarity, major advances have been made recently by the development of transgenic mouse models of human neurodegenerative disease. The identification of mutations in the SOD1 gene as the cause of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a lethal neurodegenerative disease, has opened new possibilities" (the Royal Society, 2004).

There have been numerous diseases that have either been cured or their treatment considerably evolved. These include cancer, HIV / AIDS, heart disease/stroke, diabetes, hepatitis C One of the most important aspects of medical improvements is related to the contribution animal testing has had on treating birth defects. Therefore, given that the statistics point out that the rate of children being born with birth defects in the United States is one every three minutes (Americans for Medical Progress, 2012), the research conducted in this area of expertise is crucial. As a result of medical testing and animal testing, discoveries such as the role of the folic acid in preventing such birth defects took place. More precisely, "Studies with animals determined that folic acid, a B. vitamin, helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before conception and early in pregnancy. Since this discovery, a public education campaign launched in 1992 has prevented thousands of such birth defects" (Americans for Medical Progress, 2012).

Another area that has been profoundly affected by the results from the tests conducted on animals is that of homeland security. In an era when the terrorist threat is constantly an issue for discussion and more and more countermeasures have been set in place in order to ensure national and international security, the issue of vaccines against viruses or other biological weapons that may at one point be used by terrorist groups is essential. At this point, there are under development a series of vaccines that may at one point be useful in case of terrorist attacks with chemical or biological weapons (Americans for Medical Progress, 2012).

The arguments that are referred to by the animal rights protection organization focus mostly on the unethical nature of the treatment of animals in regard to them being subject to various tests, that in most conditions jeopardize their well-being. The most important argument related to this well-being is mostly based on the emotional aspect related to the suffering cause to animals in such conditions. Therefore, "Animals are living, sentient beings, and animal experimentation by its very nature takes a considerable toll on animal life. In most cases, researchers attempt to minimize the pain and distress experienced by animals in laboratories, but suffering is nonetheless inherent as animals are held in sterile, isolated cages, forced to suffer disease and injury, or euthanized at the end of the study"(AAVS, 2012). In response to such arguments, scientists argue that numerous improvements have been made in order to ensure a more humane treatment of animals that would reduce the discomfort and side effects for animals subjected to tests. Thus, "Animal research only takes place… [END OF PREVIEW]

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