The goal of biomedical research is to translate discoveries and observations in the laboratory or clinic into new therapies. Biomedical research methods range from predictive studies to those that involve whole living systems. Areas of study may include (1) gross populations, (3) individual human subjects, (4) non-human animals, (5) in vitro techniques using cells and tissues from humans, animals, or even plants, (6) microorganisms including bacteria, yeast, or viruses, and even (7) molecular analysis of genes, proteins, and other biomolecules. Animal models are utilized in biomedical research when biological questions require a study of whole organisms that cannot be carried out in humans. Typically, animal studies are necessary for research that seeks to understand complex questions of disease progression, genetics, lifetime risk, or other biological mechanisms of a whole living system that would be unethical, morally unacceptable, or technically unfeasible or too difficult to allow the use of human subjects. By far the most common laboratory animal in biomedical research are purpose bred rats and transgenic mice. The contributions made by each step in the biomedical research process to answering questions of biological uncertainty are necessary and critical to the advancement of human and animal health.
Biomedical research is increasingly aided through the application of mathematical modeling, database analysis, and computer simulations. These computational methods are utilized to analyze large volumes of historical experimental data in order to highlight biological trends and high priority research objectives, as well as to compile large volumes of experimental data into virtual biological systems and networks that, within the bounds of current knowledge, are capable of making predictive assessments of research questions.
The focus of biomedical researchers are diverse, but all seek to answer questions relevant to human and animal health that may one day translate into clinical practice and include research programs in public health, epidemiology, preventive medicine, epigenetics, cancer, aging, endocrinology, neuroendocrinology, diabetes, cellular biology, molecular biology, pharmacology, psychopharmacology, neuroscience, genetics, virology, and many, many more.
Virtually every major medical advance of the last century has depended upon research with animals. Animals have served as surrogates in the investigation of human diseases and have yielded valuable data in the process of discovering new ways to treat, cure, or prevent them. From immunizations to cancer therapy, our ability to manage the health of animals has also improved due to animal research and the application of medical breakthroughs to veterinary medicine.
While a majority of the American public supports the necessary use of animals in biomedical research, they are also concerned about the care and treatment of laboratory animals. NABR, along with the scientific community, is committed to ensuring that all research conducted is ethical and humane.
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A History of Advances in Biomedical Research
A material made from pigs' intestine used to heal wounds in humans
Doctors are using this material, made from pigs' intestines, to heal wounds in humans. When moistened, the material, which is called SIS (small intestinal submucosa), is flexible and easy to handle. Image courtesy of Dr. Stephen Badylak, University of Pittsburgh. Grant EB000506