While contributing to our understanding of diseases, animal models also enable researchers to explore potential therapies in ways which would be impossible in humans. Studying disease mechanisms in animal models leads directly tothe development of new technologies and medicines that benefit both humans and animals. Animals which are altered to create models of disease are known as induced models. For example, surgery which damages a particular section of the spinal cord in rats gives rise to symptoms like those seen in human patients with similar spinal cord damage.
These animal models help researchers understand what happens in the body following this type of damage, and have been used in the development of new therapies. Recent advances in genetic technology have allowed the development of transgenic animals, which have new genes inserted into their DNA, allowing them to develop human diseases which do not naturally affect them. In particular this has allowed mice to model many human diseases which were previously difficult to study.
Why do companies continue to test products on animals?
Companies test on animals to provide data that they can use to defend themselves when they are sued by injured consumersвeven though some courts have ruled that the FDA has failed to show that the results of animal tests can be extrapolated to humans. The unreliability of animal tests allows companies to put virtually any product on the market. If cosmetics or household products blind or poison animals during tests, they are often marketed anyway.
Companies use the fact that the products have been testedвrather than the actual test resultsвto support the claim that they are conscientious. In most cases, companies settle out of court, preferring to pay off the injured consumer rather than bring the unreliability of their testing practices to light. In some cases, courts have ruled in favor of the injured consumers. In the end, animal tests protect no one.