Does Animal Testing Still Have A Place In Medical Research

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Humans have been using animals for many uses like food, commotion from one place to another, games, and for many other purposes. One of the extended uses of animals is their use in research. With the advancement of medical technology, the count of animals being used in the experimental research has sky rocketed. Millions of experimental animals are used for the research purposes all over the world. For example, in UK, in the year 2011, the number of experimental animals used was 3.17 million (; in USA, for the year 2009, the number of experimental animals was approximated to 1,131,076, while in Germany, it went as high as 2.13 million for the year 2001 (Rusche, 2003). For the purpose of research, the pathway of euthanasia is used for animals. Several times, if the animal survives the experiments, it is euthanized there after to prevent the later distress and pain. To top it all, animals, because of the experiments, die at the end, as in LD 50 analysis.

The dilemma is that, the animals reserve the right against pain and distress and therefore, we unethically use them for experimentation and thus, it should be stopped (Rollin, 2003). For the upbringing of this idea, in 1824, the Royal Society formed an organization which worked for the animal welfare and the circumvention of animal cruelty. On the other hand, we currently do not have better option for all the cases. In some research studies, we have developed computer applications and in others, in vitro techniques can be used; however, these modern techniques are not fully developed and in approach of everyone.

However, a huge portion of people believe animal experimentation is the best way to find new drugs and cures for patients. There are a few points that bring animal testing over other means of experimentation. First, it is not always a case that the drugs are more convenient for uptake for the cells in vivo than those in vitro. For example, an anticancer agent is more influenceable on invitro cells as compared to that in vivo. Second, several obstacles are encountered by the drug when administered in vivo, which are tough to replicate in vitro, and thus, the results may get hampered for the experiment. Third, when the intestines absorb the drug, it may get bonded with other proteins and move to other organs; hence, the effect of drugs on different organs is hard to study. Fourth, the in vitro methods do not under take some considerable factors like the influence of nerves, hormones, immune system and circulatory system. Adding to this, it has been realized that invitro test methods take longer than that in vivo methods in some cases, accompanying the fact that in vitro is more expensive than the later methods. Apart from these, there are many more reasons because of which many scientists believe that animal testing is the best way to examine a drug.

However, along with this, they also provide guidelines for the use of animals for experimentation. For instance, scientists gave a strategy of 3Rs. The strongly enforced that 3Rs, which are, Reduction, refinement and replacement should be incorporated in the laboratory research.

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On the other hand, several people keep computer software and other non-animal experimental technologies at a higher edge than using live animals for the research. Charles Hume and William Russell developed the concept of animal replacement in experimentation at the universities federation for animal welfare (UFAW) in 1957 (Balls, 1994). Using animals for the experiments is not only a criminal act, no sane person will distress animals when successful non animal alternatives are already developed, and hence there is no need to make animals suffer. Apart from the major ethical concerns, there are several drawbacks of use of animals in research like the necessity of skilled manpower, time consuming protocols and high costs. It has been found that in the study of human pharmacology, physiology and toxicology, results from animal texting are as much misleading as they are helpful. For one of the most used toxicity tests, the six pack, 6 million animals are used every year in Europe, animal tests showed 81% balanced accuracy, while the non-animal testing methods which used computers and other methodologies showed 87% balanced accuracy. For testing the sensitivity, that is, identification of how toxic a drug is, 69% of cases were succeeded by the repeat animal tests, whereas, other alternatives succeeded in 89% of the cases. When testing the skin allergic reactions of drugs in humans, the invitro and in silico methods have shown better results (94% accuracy) than the traditional animal testing methods (83% accuracy). The cost and resource insensitivity of the animal testing methods is high. It is not an easy task to deploy financial considerations to all animal experiments (Bottini and Hartung, 2009, 2010; Bottini et al., 2007). There are 3 main reasons for toxicological studies to become source intensive:

  1. Good laboratory standards are followed while undertaking animal experiments
  2. Scientists spend long periods of time treating them.
  3. To avoid skipping any important information on effect, many endpoints are accessed.

Most of the animal experimental results are not reported adequately. Important information like the objective of the study and the count and traits of the animals used was provided only by 59% of the studies. Statistical methods were used merely by 70% of the publications. There are a lot of evidences that standards for reporting the animal experiments are not high enough. We, the audience, will probably never get acquainted with about how many incorrect decisions are undertaken because of deceptive animal tests. If complete and correct information and stats are made accessible, is has a great probability that the necessity to test the maturation concern for other drugs will be decreased, thus, significantly decreasing the count of studies, and hence the number of animals. Adding to this, most of the evidences indicates that the reproducibility of animal experiments is not high enough. To study a cancer care for one species for one substance costs $1 million (Basketter et al., 2012), and a study on inhalation costs $2.5 million (Smirnova et al, 2014). Such budgets are hard to get sanctioned and attempting reproducibility will further increase the cost. There are many other reasons why animal testing set drawbacks in research. For instance, animal testing is incapable of prediction other animal species. As it is well said, “humans are not 70kg rats!” (Hartung, 2009). Animal experiments are incompetent to consider human diversity, exposure and treatment. Inbred mice are diverse from humans in many ways; our lifestyle, our weight, our diet, our history of diseases, our genetics, and the list is endless. Several researchers have discovered a technique called micro sampling in recent years, in which experiments are performed on blood samples taken from animals, hence reducing the stress on animals and enhancing the quality of data. Though it is not yet widely accepted, but many companies are striving to make this technique a standard practice.

Currently, several rules and laws are abided at the international levels, to safeguard animals from pain and distress. Several organizations like ICH (International Conference on Harmonization of Technical requirements for registration of pharmaceuticals for human use) and other organizations like OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), CPCSEA (Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals), NIH ( National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and many others, state guidelines for animal use in transportation, feeding, pet keeping, and majorly for their use in research experiments (Rollin, 2003).

The use of animals in the experimental research has many merits and demerits, and the same goes with the use of other non-animal techniques including in vitro methods and computer software. Considering the basic ethical values, non-animal techniques seem to be better than the animal testing methods, but currently we do not have enough developed strategies to eliminate the animal distress. However, work is being done constantly to improve the research results considering the ethical concerns. Animals have been of great use to humans since the very beginning and are still being used for various purposes, and hence, they ought to be respected and treated with dignity. More funds should be allocated by the government on national and international levels so that more non animal methods could be discovered, and research projects could be carried out in an ethical way.


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