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.
Scientists use animals to learn more about health problems that affect both humans and animals, and to assure the safety of new medical treatments.
Medical researchers need to understand health problems before they can develop ways to treat them. Some diseases and health problems involve processes that can only be studied in a living organism. Animals are necessary to medical research when it is impractical or unethical to use humans. Animals make good research subjects for a variety of reasons. Animals are biologically similar to humans. They are susceptible to many of the same health problems, and they have short life-cycles so they can easily be studied throughout their whole life-span or across several generations.
In addition, scientists can easily control the environment around the animal (diet, temperature, lighting, etc. ), which would be difficult to do with people. However, the most important reason why animals are used is that it would be wrong to deliberately expose human beings to health risks in order to observe the course of a disease. Animals are used in research to develop drugs and medical procedures to treat diseases.
Scientists may discover such drugs and procedures using alternative research methods that do not involve animals. If the new therapy seems promising, it is tested in animals to see whether it seems to be safe and effective. If the results of the animal studies are good, then human volunteers are asked to take part in a clinical trial. The animal studies are done first to give medical researchers a better idea of what benefits and complications they are likely to see in humans.