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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsOf mice and men: why animal trial results don’t always translate to humans – The Conversation (Ri Scarborough & John Zalcberg | August 2017)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Of mice and men: why animal trial results don’t always translate to humans – The Conversation (Ri Scarborough & John Zalcberg | August 2017)

 


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Throughout the era of modern medicine, animals have been used extensively to develop and test therapies before they are tested in humans. Virtually every medical therapy in use today – including drugs, vaccines, surgical techniques, devices such as pacemakers and joint prostheses, radiation therapy – owes its existence, at some level, to animal experiments.

In the often contentious and strident discussion about the use of animals in clinical research, defenders refer to some animals being useful alternatives to humans in risky and uncertain research on new drugs and other treatments. In this Conversation piece Ri Scarborough & John Zalcberg argue perhaps they aren’t good alternatives after all. This entry is probably more about animal ethics and scientific methodology, but we thought it worth sharing with researches, research ethics reviewers and research office staff

Animals have played a pivotal role in countless life-saving discoveries in the modern era. For example, in crude experiments in the 1800s, dogs were injected with extracts made from the pancreases of other animals, which led to insulin therapy for human diabetes. Much more recently, genetically modified mice were used to develop revolutionary cancer immunotherapy drugs, such as that credited with curing advanced melanoma in AFL footballer Jarryd Roughead.
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In developing and testing drugs for human use, animal trials give us extremely valuable information that is impossible to get from test tube or petri dish experiments alone. They tell us how a drug is absorbed and spread around the body in a living animal and how it affects the targeted, and other, tissues. They also tell us how the body processes and eliminates a drug – for most drugs, this is primarily done by the liver and kidneys.
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