Animals have been usedfor the purpose of scientific experimentation throughout human history. Aristotle,who was a Greek physician in mid three hundred B.C., conducted experiments onliving animals to expand his understanding of biological anatomy. Animals that are used forthese purposes are known as model organisms. Model organism can include animals such asfelines, canines, rodents, amphibians and primates.
The most commonly usedmodel organisms are mice and rats.There are many reasonswhy the scientific community still uses model organisms for experimentation.Model organisms are easily to maintained and breed in a laboratory. Theyusually breed in large numbers, making it easy to obtain multiple testsubjects. As well, they arenon-pathogenic, meaning that they are organisms that do not cause disease orharm to other living organisms, making them easy to work with in thelaboratory.
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Most model organisms, suchas mice, share ninety five percent of their genes with humans. Thus, a numberof human diseases occur in mice, making them a useful model for the human body.There has always beencontroversy surrounding the use of model organisms for scientific andcommercial research. On one hand, it can be seen as morally wrong to use modelorganisms for the benefit of human beings, as tests for model organisms are notalways humane.
But on the other hand, model organisms have allowed scientiststo advance their understanding of biology, disease and illness. There are manytreatments and vaccines, such as insulin for diabetes and the polio vaccine,that would not have been developed without the use of model organisms. I am against the use ofmodel organism for the purpose of scientific and commercial testing. Thetesting that is performed on model organisms, as well as the treatment thatthey are given is ethically inhumane. As well, the results that are concludedfrom the experiments conducted on model organism do not always have the same resultsthat can be used to benefit humans. There are many alternatives with today’sadvanced science technology that can be used instead of model organisms.
Eachyear, an estimated 3.02 million model organisms are used in experimentation forresearch and commercial purposes. Some of these model organisms are killed forreasons such as biology lessons for educational purposes, medical training,experimentation, drug, food, and cosmetics testing. However, there are laws set in place toprotect model organisms. The animal welfare act(AWA) was passed in 1996, whichensures that model organisms are provided with a large living space, regulatedtemperatures, as well as basic needs such as food and water. As well, a committeeknown as the institutional animal care and use committee must overlook andapprove all research conducted on model organisms.
However, the AWA does notprotect rodents, of which mice and rats are the most common, fish, or birds.These model organisms are estimated to make up ninety five percent of thepopulation that is used for experimentation in laboratories.The experiments that aretested on model organisms in laboratories can be inhumane. The Humane SocietyInternational uncovered that model organisms used in experimentation forresearch and commercial testing are often forced to into feedings, waterdeprivation, restraint, and forced inhalation. For example, there is anexperiment that is regularly used on model organisms known as the draize eyetest. This test is mainly used by cosmetic companies to assess the amount ofirritation from products such as soaps or shampoos.
This test usually involves rabbitsas the model organism. The rabbits are restrained and their eyelids are clippedopen for an unknown amount of time. The product being tested is placed in theireyes and researchers study their reaction to the product. Anesthesia is notgiven to the animal for pain relief.Tests that are performedon model organisms cannot always be dependable. Although many model organismsshare very similar DNA to humans, there genes are not a one hundred percentmatch to human beings. Since the model organisms are different, the tests thatare performed on them can be undependable.
As well, diseases that are inducedin model organisms, regardless of the species, are not identical to thediseases that occur in human beings. Thus, it becomes more unlikely that modelorganism experiments will have the same results that can be used to benefithumans. For example, according to former National Cancer Institute Director Dr.Richard Klausner, “We have cured mice of cancer for decades, and it simplydidn’t work in humans.”With today’s scientific advancements, there are many different alternatives tousing model organisms.
The options for alternatives include models based onhuman cell and tissue cultures, virtual drug trials, human volunteers for drugtrials, computer models and simulation and micro dosing, which is a method thatgives a patient a low dose of a drug to test the effects of the drug on acellular level, without affecting the patients whole body.xiii These methods, as wellas a variety of other methods, are not affected by a difference in species.They also do not make animal test results to humans difficult. As well, thesealternatives can take less time and money to complete compared to using modelorganisms.To conclude, through the research that I have gathered from creditable sources,I do not believe that model organisms should still be used for scientific andresearch testing. There have been and still are many benefits to using modelorganisms.
Model organisms are very easy to maintain in the laboratory, they breedin large numbers, are non-pathogenic, and share ninety five percent of theirgenes with humans, making them a useful model for human disease. But they arenot always treated humanely in the standard laboratory environment. Althoughthere have been laws passed to protect model organisms, such as the AWA, alarge majority of model organisms are not protected by the AWA. There are stilltests that are being conducted on model organisms that cause harm and areoverall inhumane, such as the draize eye test. As well, the model organisms thatshare very similar DNA to humans are not a one hundred percent match to humanbeings. Therefore, model organism experiments will not always yield the sameresults that can be used to benefit human beings.
However, there are manydifferent alternatives to using model organisms that erase the need for model organisms,as they do not cause any harm towards animals, and are cost and time effective.Hopefully in the future, these alternatives will be used to test for treatmentsand vaccines for disease and illnesses