On animal testing

Posted on June 13, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star- EVERY year, millions of animals are used in medical and scientific research while millions more are tested to determine the “safety” of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and household products.

In recent years, with the increased protests from animal activists and the tightening of laws controlling the practice in the West, more and more outfits are “outsourcing” their testing or setting up offshore labs in countries where the awareness is lower and the laws are laxer.

Here are some of the animals commonly used in these tests:

Dogs

It can be difficult for people to imagine a fluffy pet suffering in a laboratory, but the reality is, many dogs are used in tests for applied medical research and education. Areas that have benefited include hormonal disorders, cardiology and osteopathic studies. Heart disease is one of the common diseases tested and studied on dogs.

Most dogs used in animal testing are specifically bred for this purpose but many stray ones are increasingly being taken from pounds for testing.

Beagles are the most popular dog breed for animal testing because they are considered an effective model for diseases and conditions in humans.

They are friendly and naturally happy; this lack of aggression makes them useful in animal testing.

The experiments in which beagles are used include experimental surgical and dental procedures as well as toxicology tests of various chemical substances and food.

Cats

Cats are used quite regularly in the field of neurology because their nerve cells can be isolated and obtained from their brain for experiments.

In fact, cats have contri­buted massively to our knowledge and development of neurological research. However, these experiments are believed to be extremely painful for the cats used.

Fruit fly

Invertebrates like the fruit fly are commonly used in animal testing because of their easy housing and care. Fruit flies are said to be useful in genetics research because their cellular make-up is simple, facilitating researchers’ study of biology and diseases.

Rodents

Rodents, which include rats, mice, guinea pigs and hamsters, are the most commonly used animals in bioscience and product research.

Mice are the most popular rodent because they are cheap to obtain, easy to handle, small and can reproduce rapidly. They are also thought to be a comparable model for human diseases and share most of their genes with humans.

Rabbits

Rabbits, particularly albino rabbits, are commonly used in testing for cosmetics and other chemicals. The main test conducted is the Draize test, which assesses drug toxicity by dropping a substance in the rabbit’s eyes or on their skin, which are then observed for redness, irritation or any other damage. This is said to be a very painful test and the rabbits are usually killed after it is completed.

Fish

It is estimated that around two hundred thousand fish are used for testing per year in the United Kingdom. Zebrafish is said to be the most commonly used in the study of biology and development because they can breed in enormous numbers. They are also quite small and transparent and can be manipulated well by researchers studying disease processes.

Frogs

The frog is one of the earliest animals used in animal tests for biomedical science. Eighteenth century biologist Luigi Galvani discovered the link between electricity and the nervous system through studying frogs. In 1952, Robert Briggs and Thomas Joseph King cloned a frog using a technique that was later used to create Dolly the Sheep. Today, frogs are still used in cloning research and other embryology branches because their early development process is easy to observe due to their “shell-less” eggs.

Non-human primates

Non-human primates are popular test subjects with some scientists due to their likeness to humans. They include several types of monkeys, such as marmosets, baboons, squirrel monkeys and the Cynomolgus Macaque monkeys. Non-human primates are primarily used in toxicology testing as well as to investigate the biology of the human body and treatment of diseases such as AIDS. Another use for non-human primates is psychological testing, including human’s learning behaviour.

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