animal model

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Animal ‘Models’: How a Mechanistic Approach can Reduce Suffering and Improve Translatability

Elliot Lilley

Poorly predictive animal models of disease cause avoidable suffering and hamper the discovery of new treatments for patients. A focus on
mechanistic modelling has the potential to reduce animal suffering as well as improving translation from the bench to the bedside.

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Monkey-based Research on Human Disease: The Implications of Genetic Differences

Jarrod Bailey

Assertions that the use of monkeys to investigate human diseases is valid scientifically are frequently based on a reported 90–93% genetic similarity between the species. Critical analyses of the relevance of monkey studies to human biology, however, indicate that this genetic similarity does not result in sufficient physiological similarity for monkeys to constitute good models for research, and that monkey data do not translate well to progress in clinical practice for humans. Salient examples include the failure of new drugs in clinical trials, the highly different infectivity and pathology of SIV/HIV, and poor extrapolation of research on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. The major molecular differences underlying these inter-species phenotypic disparities have been revealed by comparative genomics and molecular biology — there are key differences in all aspects of gene expression and protein function, from chromosome and chromatin structure to post-translational modification. The collective effects of these differences are striking, extensive and widespread, and they show that the superficial similarity between human and monkey genetic sequences is of little benefit for biomedical research. The extrapolation of biomedical data from monkeys to humans is therefore highly unreliable, and the use of monkeys must be considered of questionable value, particularly given the breadth and potential of alternative methods of enquiry that are currently available to scientists.

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Lessons from Chimpanzee-based Research on Human Disease: The Implications of Genetic Differences

Jarrod Bailey

Assertions that the use of chimpanzees to investigate human diseases is valid scientifically are frequently based on a reported 98–99% genetic similarity between the species. Critical analyses of the relevance of chimpanzee studies to human biology, however, indicate that this genetic similarity does not result in sufficient physiological similarity for the chimpanzee to constitute a good model for research, and furthermore, that chimpanzee data do not translate well to progress in clinical practice for humans. Leading examples include the minimal citations of chimpanzee research that is relevant to human medicine, the highly different pathology of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C virus infection in the two species, the lack of correlation in the efficacy of vaccines and treatments between chimpanzees and humans, and the fact that chimpanzees are not useful for research on human cancer. The major molecular differences underlying these inter-species phenotypic disparities have been revealed by comparative genomics and molecular biology — there are key differences in all aspects of gene expression and protein function, from chromosome and chromatin structure to post-translational modification. The collective effects of these differences are striking, extensive and widespread, and they show that the superficial similarity between human and chimpanzee genetic sequences is of little consequence for biomedical research. The extrapolation of biomedical data from the chimpanzee to the human is therefore highly unreliable, and the use of the chimpanzee must be considered of little value, particularly given the breadth and potential of alternative methods of enquiry that are currently available to science.
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