Animal Models and Testing

Animal testing, also known as animal experimentation, animal research, and in vivo testing, is the use of non-human animals in experiments. The research is conducted inside universities, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, farms, defense establishments, and commercial facilities that provide animal-testing services to industry. It includes pure research as well as applied research. Animals are also used for education, breeding, and defense research. The practice is regulated to various degrees in different countries. Worldwide it is estimated that the number of vertebrate animals from zebrafish to non-human primates ranges from the tens of millions to more than 100 million used annually. Invertebrates, mice, rats, birds, fish, frogs, and animals not yet weaned are not included in the figures in the United States, one estimate of mice and rats used in the US alone in 2001 was 80 million. Most animals are euthanized after being used in an experiment. Sources of laboratory animals vary between countries and species, most animals are purpose-bred, while a minority are caught in the wild or supplied by dealers who obtain them from auctions and pounds. According to the Humane Society, registration of a single pesticide requires more than 50 experiments and the use of as many as 12,000 animals. When used in cosmetic tests, mice, rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs are often subjected to skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed on shaved skin or dripped into the eyes without any pain relief. In tests of potential carcinogens, subjects are given a substance every day for 2 years. Others tests involve killing pregnant animals and testing their fetuses. The real-life applications for some of the tested substances are as trivial as an “improved” laundry detergent, new eye shadow, or copycat drugs to replace a profitable pharmaceutical whose patent expired. Alternative tests achieve one or more of the “3 R’s:” replaces a procedure that uses animals with a procedure that doesn’t, reduces the number of animals used in a procedure, refines a procedure to alleviate or minimize potential animal pain.

For the past 20 years, we have witnessed an intense but largely unproductive debate over the propriety and value of using animals in medical and scientific research, testing and education. The use of animals for research and testing is only one of many investigative techniques available. We believe that although animal experiments are sometimes intellectually seductive, they are poorly suited to addressing the urgent health problems of our era, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, AIDS and birth defects. Even worse, animal experiments can mislead researchers or even contribute to illnesses or deaths by failing to predict the toxic effects of drugs. Fortunately, other, more reliable methods that represent a far better investment of research funds can be employed.

  • Use of laboratory animals in research and education 
  • Immunodeficient animal models
  • Novel techniques for maxillofacial reconstruction
  • Product development and drug testing
  • Genetic engineering of animals
  • Controversies and ethics of animal testing

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Animal Models and Testing Conference Speakers