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The Importance of Animal Research

Research Advancing Health

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, (2) individual human subjects, (3) nonhuman animals, (4) in vitro techniques using cells and tissues from humans, animals or even plants, (5) microorganisms including bacteria, yeast or viruses, and even (6) molecular analyses of genes, proteins and other biomolecules. Animal models are utilized in biomedical research when questions require a study of whole organisms that cannot be carried out in humans.


Typically, animal studies are essential 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 perform in human subjects. The most common laboratory animal in biomedical research are purpose bred rats and transgenic mice. In fact, approximately 95% of all warm-blooded laboratory animals are rodents. The contributions made by these animals and other species help researchers answer questions of biological uncertainty and are necessary and critical to the advancement of both human and animal health.

Other very important aids include mathematical modeling, database analysis, computer simulations and in vitro models, such as cell and tissue cultures. 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. Research programs can be found in public health, epidemiology, preventive medicine, epigenetics, cancer, aging, endocrinology, neuroendocrinology, diabetes, cellular biology, molecular biology, pharmacology, psychopharmacology, neuroscience, genetics, virology and much more.

Role of Animal Research in Medical Advances

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 because of animal research and the application of medical breakthroughs in 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, responsible and humane.


The close relationship between dogs and people may pre-date recorded history. Over millennia, dogs have become our most beloved pets and also our hardest working partners. They guide those with special needs; help police, fire and rescue personnel; and even assist in herding other animals. One of the most significant results of our partnership with dogs has been their contribution to our understanding of disease, and how to prevent and cure it. In fact, dogs and people get many of the same diseases, from heart disease to cancer. What we can glean from studying dogs in medical and scientific research often yields treatments that help not only people, but also dogs themselves.


Mice and Rats

Rodents play an invaluable role in biomedical research. Approximately 95% of all laboratory animals are mice and rats. Reducing reliance on higher-order species, rodents have become the animal model of choice for biomedical researchers because their physiology and genetic makeup closely resembles that of people. Despite certain differences between people and rodents, the similarities are strong enough to give researchers an enormously powerful and versatile mammalian system in which to investigate human disease.