Letter: Why animal testing is 'vital' (1)

September 14, 2001

I read Susan Green's letter claiming "animal testing is not scientific" while at the British Association's Festival of Science at Glasgow University (Letters, THES , September 7).

Some of the sessions covered the medical sciences and included talks from scientists, clinicians and vets who would strongly disagree. Here is a selection:

  • The study of Newfoundland dogs that have the same serious heart condition as humans - dilated cardiomyopathy - is offering hope to both dog owners and patients
  • Populations, families, genes and environments of dogs, cats and horses can reveal much about hundreds of genetic diseases we share with them, from eye conditions to epilepsy
  • Genetically modified mice have been crucial in developing and testing a vaccine for Alzheimer's disease that is now being tested in human trials
  • Research using rats revealed that a protein normally produced by the immune system damages the brain following stroke. Results from the test-tube were misleading
  • The study of rabbit blood vessels showed that nitric oxide played an important role in the body and led to its use to treat potentially fatal toxic shock in humans
  • Sheep have been genetically modified to produce a protein in their milk that will be used to treat cystic fibrosis patients.

Yes, of course, much biomedical research is conducted on the molecular and cellular level, but most scientists and clinicians agree that animal studies are also essential.

Green's suggestion that anyone would "waste valuable research funding" on unnecessary or unscientific approaches is simply absurd.

Barbara Davies
Deputy director
RDS, Understanding Animal Research in Medicine, London

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