Importance of Animals in Research

​ ​Scientist pouring red liquid into a beaker.

The Crucial Role of Animals in Research

From the development of insulin to the latest life-prolonging cancer drugs and virtually every major medical advance in between, animals have played vital roles in scientific research that have led to cures and treatments for a wide array of human diseases. Animals have helped scientists improve the nutritional value of our food supply and – thanks to agricultural and veterinary research – have helped bring about a better quality of life for many animals and a safer environment as well.

Millions of lives have been saved, improved and extended thanks to the results of humane scientific research that has relied upon animals at various stages. Without the use of animals, men, women and children around the world would simply not enjoy the quality and length of life they do today.

Compassion

Researchers and everyone involved in research with animals – including veterinarians and animal-care technicians – are sincerely concerned about the welfare of animals that are part of the research process. However, researchers are also concerned about the numerous people among us dealing with life-altering medical conditions who are desperate for quicker diagnoses, pain relieving treatments, and the discovery of cures.

Millions of lives can be improved by successful research projects leading to better care and treatment – for the grandfather taken by Alzheimer’s disease, the mother stricken with breast cancer, the child learning to live with diabetes, the whole segment of a community trying to cope with excessive levels of cholesterol or heart disease.  These are the people researchers are trying to help.

How Animals Have Helped Research

At McGill, recent research involving animals has led to the following advancements:

  • The discovery of previously unknown interactions between genes that control whether cells become cancerous;
  • The development of new, experimental treatments for diseases that affect the nervous system;
  • A better understanding of the mechanisms of blood flow that has helped in the development of drugs to ease vascular head pain.

Other familiar breakthroughs involving animal research includes:

  • The discovery of insulin, penicillin, streptomycin and yellow fever vaccine;
  • The treatment for cancer, AIDS, hypertension, cardiac stents, high cholesterol, depression;
  • The development of important medical devices such as the electrocardiogram, computer assisted tomography (CAT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
  • Improved understanding of how cells work, how genetic differences play a role in the development of life and disease, immunity and the regulation of cholesterol.

There are, in fact, too many medical research breakthroughs to include in this list. It is accurate to say that cancer patients, HIV sufferers and diabetics are living longer thanks to research that has involved animals. These diseases used to result in automatic – and almost always rapid – deaths. Now, they needn’t be.

Animals in laboratories around the world have played an invaluable role in helping understand diseases, finding treatments and discovering cures. 

Where to Find Out More

There is a wealth of information about humane animal research available online. To learn more:

Please animalcare [at] mcgill.ca (contact us) if you have additional questions or comments.