History of animal testing

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One of Pavlov’s dogs with a saliva-catch container and tube surgically implanted in his muzzle. Pavlov Museum, 2005

The history of animal testing goes back to the writings of the Greeks in the third and fourth centuries BCE, with Aristotle (384-322 BC) and Erasistratus (304-258 BC) among the first to perform experiments on living animals.[1] Galen, a physician in second-century Rome, dissected pigs and goats, and is known as the "father of vivisection." [2]

Ethical debate

Animal testing

Main articles
Alternatives to animal testing
Animal testing
Animal testing on invertebrates
Animal testing on frogs
Animal testing on non-human primates
Animal testing on rabbits
Animal testing on rodents
History of animal testing
History of model organisms

Biomedical Research
Animal rights
Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act
Animal welfare
Great Ape research ban
International trade in primates

Controversial experiments
Cambridge University primates
Pit of despair
Silver Spring monkeys
Unnecessary Fuss

Charles River Laboratories, Inc.
Covance · Harlan
Huntingdon Life Sciences
UK lab animal suppliers

Americans for Medical Progress
Foundation For Biomedical Research
Boyd Group · BUAV
Physicians Committee
Primate Freedom Project
Pro-Test · SPEAK
Research Defence Society
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty

Colin Blakemore · Carl Cohen
Simon Festing · Tipu Aziz

Animal testing
Animal rights
Animal welfare

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In 1764, Voltaire wrote the following in his Philosophical Dictionary:

Is it because I speak to you, that you judge that I have feeling, memory, ideas? Well, I do not speak to you; you see me going home looking disconsolate, seeking a paper anxiously, opening the desk where I remember having shut it, finding it, reading it joyfully. You judge that I have experienced the feeling of distress and that of pleasure, that I have memory and understanding. Bring the same judgment to bear on this dog which has lost its master, which has sought him on every road with sorrowful cries, which enters the house agitated, uneasy, which goes down the stairs, up the stairs, from room to room, which at last finds in his study the master it loves, and which shows him its joy by its cries of delight, by its leaps, by its caresses. Barbarians seize this dog, which in friendship surpasses man so prodigiously; they nail it on a table, and they dissect it alive in order to show the mesenteric veins. You discover in it all the same organs of feeling that are in yourself. Answer me, machinist, has nature arranged all the means of feeling in this animal, so that it may not feel? has it nerves in order to be impassible? Do not suppose this impertinent contradiction in nature.

In 1655, physiologist Edmund O'Meara is recorded as saying that "the miserable torture of vivisection surely places the body in an unnatural state."[citation needed] O'Meara thus expressed one of the chief scientific objections to vivisection: that the pain that the subject endured would interfere with the accuracy of the results. On the other side of the debate, those in favor of animal testing held that experiments on living animals were necessary to advance medical and biological knowledge.

In 1822, in the British parliament, Richard Martin MP piloted the first parliamentary bil; in the world to give animals a degree of protection in law. This first bill related to farm animals. The first to regulate animal experimentation in Britain was the Cruelty to Animals Act (1876). One of the people who campaigned to see the bill introduced was Charles Darwin (1809-1882). He said, in a letter of March 22, 1871 to Professor Ray Lankester: "You ask about my opinion on vivisection. I quite agree that it is justifiable for real investigations on physiology; but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity. It is a subject which makes me sick with horror, so I will not say another word about it, else I shall not sleep to-night." The bill remained on the statute books until the introduction of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (1986).

Animals have had a role in numerous well-known experiments.

Basic science advances

In the 1600s, William Harvey described the movement of blood in mammals. In the 1700s, Antoine Lavoisier, used a guinea pig in a calorimeter to prove that respiration was a form of combustion, and Stephen Hales measured blood pressure in the horse. In the 1880s, Louis Pasteur convincingly demonstrated the germ theory of medicine by giving anthrax to sheep. In the 1890s, Ivan Pavlov famously used dogs to describe classical conditioning.

In 1921 Otto Loewi provided the first strong evidence that neuronal communication with target cells occurred via chemical synapses. He extracted two hearts from frogs and left them beating in an ionic bath. He stimulated the attached Vagus nerve of the first heart, and observed its beating slowed. When the second heart was placed in the ionic bath of the first, it also slowed. [3]

In the 1920s, Edgar Adrian formulated the theory of neural communication that the frequency of action potentials, and not the size of the action potentials, was the basis for communicating the magnitude of the signal. His work was performed in an isolated frog nerve-muscle preparation. ADrian was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work. [4]

In the 1960s David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel demonstrated the macrocolumnar organization of visual areas in cats and monkeys, and provided physiological evidence for the critical period for the development of disparity sensitivity in vision (ie: the main cue for depth perception), and were awarded a Nobel Prize for their work.

In 1996 Dolly the sheep was born, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

Medical advances

Insulin was isolated from dogs in 1922, and revolutionized the treatment of diabetes. On November 3, 1957, a Russian space dog named Laika became the first of many animals to orbit the earth, including many monkeys and apes.

In the 1940s, Jonas Salk used Rhesus monkey cross-contamination studies to isolate the three forms of the polio virus that affected hundreds of thousands yearly. [5] Salk's team created a vaccine against the strains of polio in cell cultures of Rhesus monkey kidney cells. The vaccine was publicly available in 1955 reduced the incidence of polio 15-fold in the USA in the next five years. [6] Albert Sabin made a superior "live" vaccine by passing the polio virus through animal hosts, including monkeys. The vaccine was produced for mass consumption in 1963 that is still in use today, and it virtually eradicated polio in the USA by 1965. [7] It has been estimated that 100,000 Rhesus monkeys were killed in the course of developing the polio vaccines, and 65 doses of vaccine were produced for each monkey.

In the 1950's the first safer, non-volatile anaesthetic halothane was developed through studies on rodents, rabbits, dogs, cats and monkeys. [8] This paved the way for a whole new generation of modern general anaesthetics - also developed by animal studies - without which modern, complex sugical operations would be virtually impossible. [9]

In 1960, Albert Starr pioneered heart valve replacement surgery in humans after a series of surgical advances in dogs.[10] He received the Lasker Medical Award in 2007 for his efforts, along with Alain Carpentier. In 1968 Carpentier made heart valve replacements from the heart valves of pigs, which are pre-treated with gluteraldehyde to blunt immune response. Over 300,000 people receive heart valve replacements derived from Starr and Carpentier's designs annually. Carpentier said of Starr's initial advances "Before his prosthetic, patients with valvular disease would die".[11]

In the 1970s, leprosy multi-drug antibiotic treatments were developed first in armadillos, then in humans. In 1996 the anti-viral AIDS drug, Tenofovir, had its anti-retroviral efficacy evaluated in Rhesus monkey studies at the University of Washington Regional Primate Research Center.[12][13]

Throughout the twentieth century, research that used live animals has led to many medical advances and treatments for human diseases, such as: diphtheria vaccine,[14] organ transplant techniques and anti-transplant rejection medications,[15][16][17][18][19] the heart-lung machine,[20] heart replacement valves,[21] insulin for treatment of diabetes,[22][23] antibiotics like penicillin,[24] whooping cough vaccine,[25]

Presently, animal experimentation continues to be used in research that aims to solve medical problems from Alzheimer's disease[26], multiple sclerosis[27], spinal cord injury[28], and many more conditions in which there is no useful in vitro model system available.

Veterinary advances

File:Veterinary Surgeon.jpg
A veterinary surgeon at work with a black cat.

Animal testing for veterinary studies accounts for around five per cent of research using animals. Treatments to each of the following animal diseases have been derived from animal studies: rabies,[14] anthrax,[14] glanders,[14] Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV),[29] tuberculosis[14] Texas cattle fever,[14] Classical swine fever (hog cholera),[14] Heartworm and other parasitic infections.[30]

Basic and applied research in veterinary medicine continues in varied topics, such as searching for improved treatments and vaccines for feline leukemia virus and improving veterinary oncology.

See also


  1. Cohen and Loew 1984.
  2. "History of nonhuman animal research", Laboratory Primate Advocacy Group.
  3. [1] O. Loewi (1921) "Uber humorale Ubertragbarkeit der Herznervenwirkung. I." Pflugers Archiv, 189, pp. 239-242
  4. [2] Adrian Nobel Prize
  5. [www.post-gazette.com/pg/05093/481117.stm] Virus-typing of polio by Salk
  6. [3] Salk polio virus
  7. [4] History of polio vaccine
  8. Raventos J (1956) Brit J Pharmacol 11, 394
  9. Whalen FX, Bacon DR & Smith HM (2005) Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol 19, 323
  10. http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2007/09/starr_receives_nations_most_pr.html
  11. http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53590/
  12. PMPA blocks SIV in monkeys
  13. PMPA is tenofovir
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 A reference handbook of the medical sciences. William Wood and Co., 1904, Edited by Albert H. Buck.
  15. Carpentier A et al. (1969) J. Thoracic Cardiovasc. Surg. 58: p. 467
  16. Carrel A (1912) Surg. Gynec. Obst. 14: p. 246
  17. Williamson C (1926) J. Urol. 16: p. 231
  18. Woodruff H & Burg R (1986) in Discoveries in Pharmacology vol 3, ed Parnham & Bruinvels, Elsevier, Amsterdam
  19. Moore F (1964) Give and Take: the Development of Tissue Transplantation. Saunders, New York
  20. Gibbon JH (1937) Arch. Surg. 34, 1105
  21. Starr A (1961) J. Thoracic Cardiovasc. Surg. 42, 673
  22. Pratt J H (1954) A reappraisal of researches leading to the discovery of insulin. J. Hist. Med. 9, 281
  23. Macleod J (1922) Insulin and diabetes, Brit. Med. J. 2: p. 833
  24. Fleming A (1929) Brit J Exper Path 10, 226
  25. Medical Research Council (1956) Br. Med. J. 2: p. 454
  26. Geula C, Wu C-K, Saroff D, Lorenzo A, Yuan M, Yankner BA (1998) Aging renders the brain vulnerable to amyloid β protein neurotoxicity, Nature Medicine 4: p. 827
  27. Jameson BA, McDonnell JM, Marini JC & Korngold R (1994) A rationally designed CD4 analogue inhibits experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, Nature 368: p. 744
  28. Lyuksyutova AL, Lu C-C, Milanesio N (2003) Anterior-posterior guidance of commissural axons by Wnt-Frizzled signaling. Science 302, 1984.
  29. Pu R, Coleman J, Coisman J, Sato E, Tanabe T, Arai M, Yamamoto JK. btype FIV vaccine (Fel-O-Vax FIV) protection against a heterologous subtype B FIV isolate. J Feline Med Surg. (2005) 7(1):65-70, PMID 15686976
  30. Dryden MW, Payne PA. Preventing parasites in cats. Vet Ther (2005) 6:260-267, PMID 16299672

Further reading