The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine is shared between William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, and Youyou Tu, who contributed to fighting parasitic diseases, among which malaria. The research behind this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine has once again relied on animal research – over the past 40 years, every Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine bar one has done so.
London, 16 July 2015
Kirk Leech, Executive Director of the European Animal Research Association: “This is good news. Finally some sense has prevailed. This decision ensures the continuation in the UK of important medical research for the development of new medicines and treatments both for human and animal health. Very few dogs are used in research in the UK, 4,643 in 2012, but they have been important in many medical advances, for example the discovery of insulin to treat diabetic patients, the development of pacemakers and blood transfusion procedures.”
“Countless patients in the UK and worldwide have seen their quality of life improved thanks to innovative new medicines. Animal research and testing remains an essential part of the development of all new medicines and vaccines, to determine both the likely efficacy and the safety of a potential medicine. If an artificial limit is placed on the number of animals that can be used in research, it will potentially limit the progress that can be made in the development of therapies for medical conditions where we do not yet have adequate treatments, such as infectious diseases and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.”
Link to the UK Government Department for Communities and Local Government decision letter and inspector’s report.
Kirk Leech, Executive Director
The European Animal Research Association
T: +44 (0) 07850480520
Over the last 40 years, every Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine but one has depended on work using animals. From modern vaccines that protect us against polio, TB and meningitis, to the development of Tamoxifen that has led to a 30% fall in death rates from breast cancer, the role of research animals cannot be underestimated.
These briefing notes explain the importance of dogs as experimental animal models, why and how this species is used in research and the role of animal breeders in drug development.
BRIEFING NOTES ON DOG BREEDING FOR SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES
DOGS IN RESEARCH
- Carnivores (which include dogs and cats) represent 0.25% of the total number of animals used in 2011 in the EU, while mice (60.9%) and rats (13.9%) are by far the most commonly used species (1).
- For a new drug to reach clinical trials in humans, the S Food and Drug Agency (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) usually require toxicity tests in both a rodent and a non-rodent mammal. The rodent will often be a rat; the other mammal will usually be a dog.
- Dogs are used because they are physiologically similar to humans.
- Dogs can be used to determine the ‘maximum tolerated dose’, which helps to determine dose selection for human trials.
- Dogs are especially suitable for cardiovascular studies due to the resemblance in heart connectivity and size to the human heart.
- Experiments on dogs led to the discovery of insulin to treat diabetic patients, the development of blood transfusion procedures and the creation of the electrical defibrillator to restore normal heart rhythm (2).
BREEDING DOGS FOR SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES
- Dogs for research are purpose-bred and come from licensed breeding establishments as required in the European Directive that protects animals used for scientific purposes (3).
- At the breeding establishment, dogs are housed in small groups and have enough space for regular exercise.
- Breeding establishments are legally bound by the same guidelines as research centres and scientist, as laid out in European Directive 2010/63 (3) which seeks to ensure high animal welfare standards while encouraging the development of non-animal alternatives.
- Animals are required in medical, veterinary, environmental and scientific research to develop treatments for humans and animals.
- There are many comparable physiological processes in humans and animals. In some cases, a gene present in an animal is also present in the human genome, suggesting that the function of that specific gene can be conserved between species.
- Before testing a treatment in an animal, candidate drugs are, whenever possible, first evaluated using in vitro assays in cell cultures, ex-vivo tissues and computational modelling.
- Both experiments on animals and in vitro help us to understand the biological processes associated with health and disease.
- New medicines are tested in animals to determine whether they show unwanted side effects.
- The use of animals in toxicology studies helps determine the therapeutic index (TI) of a candidate drug, which indicates its safety.
- All animal research is performed according to the 3Rs principle of replacement (of animals with non-animal models), reduction (of the number of experimental animals) and refinement (of the procedures to cause the less pain to the animal) introduced by Russell and Burch in 1959 (4).
For further information please contact Emma Sanchez (firstname.lastname@example.org), PR and Communications Officer for the European Animal Research Association.
- Seventh Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the Statistics on the number of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes in the member states of the European Union COM (2013) 859/final. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/lab_animals/reports_en.htm (Accessed 15th July 2015).
- Directive 2010/63/EU. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/lab_animals/legislation_en.htm (Accessed 15th July 2015)
- Russell WMS, Burch RL (1959). The principles of humane experimental technique. London: Methuen. pp 238.