Adding to the evidence supporting the urgent need to transition away from misleading animal experiments
Published on March 16, 2023
Our Science Director, Jarrod Bailey, has recently published two pieces of work that add to the evidence supporting what Animal Free Research UK advocates and is working towards: an urgent transition away from misleading animal experiments of poor human relevance, and towards the use of human-focused research and testing approaches.
The first is a chapter in a new academic book, entitled “Nonhuman Primate Welfare: From History, Science, and Ethics to Practice“. The book covers a broad range of welfare issues for nonhuman primates, such as zoos, captivity in general, use in entertainment, and includes ethical, legal and scientific perspectives, but Jarrod’s chapter focuses on the argument that nonhuman primates should not be used in biomedical research and testing (for example, of new human drugs), and discusses the evidence underpinning this case, from both and ethical and scientific standpoints. His chapter outlines that nonhuman primates experiments not only cause great suffering and harms to the animals involved, but that they are also misleading for humans, due to widespread and significant biological species differences. This means that they can only ever fail to translate to human benefit, and that there is also a human ethical case to consider and to answer. Human diseases are failing to be properly understood, and new drugs are failing in human trials despite promising results in nonhuman primates, as well as being lost due to poor results in nonhuman primates where they might have been successful and safe in people, and so people are being harmed.
Jarrod presents examples of the many diseases in which nonhuman primate research has poorly translated to knowledge of human biology and disease, and to human clinical benefits, such as HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease, summarising many of his own published scientific papers as well as the work of other scientists. He also shows why these failures happened, based on crucial genetic differences, and on the chronic stress that animals experience in laboratories and how this affects multiple biological systems. The chapter concludes that humane, human-specific research methods must be employed throughout, and that this will benefit both nonhuman primates and humans alike.
The second publication is a peer-reviewed scientific paper in the journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, entitled “Poor Translatability of Biomedical Research Using Animals — A Narrative Review”. This paper highlights, and substantially adds to, an important argument supporting the transition of biomedical research away from using animals. As well as there being a better way to do research (using human-focused methods throughout the research process), we also need to fully appreciate the degree to which animal research is poorly relevant to humans.
The paper takes several high-profile examples of diseases, and explores how much—or how little—the use of animals in those areas of research has translated to human benefit in terms of clinical therapies. The diseases were selected based on their high prevalence, burden on patients and society, and high numbers of animals used. They include neurodegenerative diseases, respiratory diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and HIV/AIDS. In all cases, there is a dearth of new treatments, in spite of substantial animal-based research in these areas, and a demonstrable lack of translation specifically from the results of animal research to the benefit of patients. In addition, the paper describes how combined new, cutting-edge, human-specific research methods are key to addressing this poor translation of research to benefit, and that more investment in these methods, and their greater uptake in biomedical research, are vital and warranted. This will benefit animals used in laboratories, and humans, alike.
Bailey J. Arguments against using nonhuman primates in research. In: Robinson LM, Weiss A. Nonhuman Primate Welfare: From History, Science, and Ethics to Practice. Springer Nature; 2023:666.
Marshall LJ, Bailey J, Cassotta M, Herrmann K, Pistollato F. Poor Translatability of Biomedical Research Using Animals — A Narrative Review. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (2023). Available: https://doi.org/10.1177/02611929231157756