Animal Rights

Basic Research Using Animals is Failing to Produce Cures

| by Dr Ray Greek

According to Research!America the US invested $139 billion in health research in 2009Federal funds accounted for $46.8 billion while $74.3 billion came from industry. All other sources accounted for $17.8 billion. Put this in the context of the below editorial from Nature:

The readers of Nature should be an optimistic bunch. Every week we publish encouraging dispatches from the continuing war against disease and ill health. Genetic pathways are unravelled, promising drug targets are identified and sickly animal models are brought back to rude health. Yet the number of human diseases that can be efficiently treated remains low — a concerning impotency given the looming health burden of the developed world's ageing population. The uncomfortable truth is that scientists and clinicians have been unable to convert basic biology advances into therapies or resolve why these conversion attempts so often don't succeed. Together, these failures are hampering clinical research at a time when it should be expanding. (Editorial 2010)

Contrast the above with human-based research. Another discovery has been made about why twins do not react the same way to drugs and disease. The study out of Australia revealed that:

identical twins shows that a rare genetic form of epilepsy can be caused by a genetic mutation that occurs in the embryo, and not necessarily passed down from parents.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers have previously believed that new mutations for epilepsy and other diseases usually occur in the sperm or egg cells of the parents, but, by using identical twins, the study shows that mutation may occur shortly after fertilization . . . “This really shows the value of studying identical twins to make genetic discoveries that are otherwise effectively invisible to scientists when studying other members of the population,” Professor Berkovic said.

As journals like Nature point out the low yield from basic research, especially basic research using animals, it will be harder and harder for vivisection activists to defend the practice. That is not say they will abandon their efforts, merely that the defense will be accepted only by the credulous and or scientifically uninformed.

For more on using sentient animals in basic biomedical research see our article titled: Is the use of sentient animals in basic research justifiable?


Editorial. 2010. Hope in translation. Nature 467 (7315):499.