A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, flurbiprofen, was shown to be effective in halting the progression of periodontal disease in monkeys. This drug is now used in humans. The use of immunoglobulin injections to protect against hepatitis A was developed in chimpanzees.
Recently, a safe, effective vaccine for hepatitis A was developed through research with chimpanzees and tamarins. The identification, isolation and cloning of hepatitis C virus was dependent upon research with chimpanzees. Research with rhesus monkeys established the importance of a dietary amino acid, taurine, in the development of the retina of the eye. As a result of these findings, taurine is added to human infant formulas, resulting in the prevention of blindness.
Many of the drugs that are proving to be effective in combating AIDS were tested in nonhuman primates. Many other potential drugs were proven to be ineffective in primates, sparing humans from clinical trials with ineffective drugs.
Doctors would have no chemotherapy to save the 70 percent of children who now survive acute lymphocytic leukemia. Hundreds of thousands of people disabled by strokes or by head or spinal cord injuries would not benefit from rehabilitation techniques. The more than , people with arthritis who each year receive hip replacements would walk only with great pain and difficulty or be confined to wheelchairs.
The 7, newborns who contract jaundice each year would develop cerebral palsy, now preventable through phototherapy. There would be no kidney dialysis to extend the lives of thousands of patients with end-stage renal disease. Instead of being eradicated, smallpox would continue unchecked and many others would join the two million people killed by the disease. Millions of dogs, cats and other pets and farm animals would have died from anthrax, distemper, canine parvovirus, feline leukemia, rabies, and more than other diseases now preventable because of animal research.
Dietary supplements to treat homocystinuria, a condition that can lead to atherosclerosis, were developed in research with monkeys. Surfactant Basic physiological research with premature baboons advanced the development of a natural product called surfactant to prevent lung damage complications in premature newborn babies.
Surfactant is now given to all premature infants as an aerosol. Bone Healing Research with baboons and chimpanzees established that a mixture of specific proteins and a matrix material can dramatically hasten the restructuring of bone after surgery or accidental breakage.
It is expected that this product will soon become widely used and that it will greatly reduce recovery time after bone breakage or surgery.
Hepatitis B Vaccine Much of the work involved in developing a hepatitis B vaccine was done with chimpanzees at Texas Biomed. Safety and efficacy testing of the first hepatitis B vaccine also was done at the Institute. An improved, safer vaccine has since been developed, and its efficacy also was established in research with chimpanzees at Texas Biomed. Why are Primates so critical to life-saving research? Nonhuman primate research has led to major medical breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of diseases in both humans and animals.
When Greg was involved in a motorcycle accident in , the twelfth thoracic vertebra of his spine pinched his spinal cord. Greg said that while he has fared better than victims of spinal injuries in the past, he also knows that if he had the same accident today, he might still have at least partial use of his legs because of recent medical discoveries. What we know today is that when that happens, pressure on the spine combined with the reduction of blood flow which results in decreased glucose and oxygen causes paralysis.
Greg noted that it is through research using mice, rats, and cats that scientists now understand how this happens, giving them a much better chance to figure out how to prevent paralysis in such cases.
Already, groundbreaking work with very high doses of steroids has produced favorable results. While paraplegics and quadraplegics are frequently seen living full and active lives today, Greg said he realizes that at one time spinal cord injuries led to shortened life spans and even death. For example, disposal of body wastes once led to deadly infections, but catheterization and learning to retrain the body to handle waste disposal have saved many paraplegics from these illnesses.
Research on goats and sheep enabled doctors to take a piece of bone from Greg's hip and use it to fuse his spine, ensuring its stability and preventing further damage to the spinal cord. Greg also observed that using animals in research has resulted in other discoveries that may seem less dramatic but have been just as important to spinal cord injury victims.
Behavioral research has led to the training of service dogs for paraplegics and quadraplegics.
Antibiotics, anaesthetics, organ transplants and insulin for diabetes are just some of the breakthroughs that have depended on animal research. The polio vaccine alone has saved millions of lives. And Herceptin was not only developed and tested in mice, it actually comes from mice. This modern medicine can save the lives of women with breast cancer.
contribution of animals in research aimed at improving the health of both humans and animals. The role of animals remains critical in understanding the fundamental processes of life and in developing treatments for injury and disease.
For human health. Medical research has saved and improved the lives of millions of people. Animals have benefited too. Today's medicines and surgical techniques could not have been discovered without better understanding of disease and the way the body works - the result of basic research programmes in universities, hospitals and research institutes across the world. So those who would decry animal research of any kind are actually hurting future care, health, and treatment of the very animals they proclaim to protect. It works both ways. A UCLA cardiologist who performs ultrasounds on human hearts as her “day job” gets .
He is a member of Incurably Ill for Animal Research, an organization that provides the patient's perspective on the humane use of animals in biological, medical, and behavioral research and testing. Patty Wood can be reached at the Washington Association for Biomedical Research, () animals in research aimed at improving the health of both humans and animals. The role of animals remains critical in understanding the fundamental processes of .