"Some Contributions of Animals to Modern Medicine" is an impressive example of applied research. Slightly over one century ago, good health all over the world was not as common as it is today. For instance, tuberculosis was a key cause of mortality in the United States just at the turn of the 20th century and 25% of the population of the developed world died before their 25th birthdays. Improved sanitation and nutrition has contributed greatly to the present state of good health and the reduction of deaths caused by infectious diseases. However, it could not have been possible to eliminate some death-causing infectious diseases without research carried out on animals to develop and try modern medicines with positive results, especially vaccinations and antibiotics (Trull 1).
Testing and research on animals entail trials of medicines on animals to establish both their effectiveness and side impacts. This may be by placing the medicine in contact with the animals’ skin, inserting or having them inhale it. In this context, medicine entails knowledge, practice and treatment founded on experimental processes conducted and developed on animals and this paper will research and discuss the contributions of animals to modern medicine.
Syringes were first developed by veterinarians in the 19th century who also developed spinal anaesthesia, parental medications and established and documented that arthropods could transmit diseases (Quimby 184). In the 20th century, they described the majority of the retroviruses known to scientists, including their life cycles as well as their ability to cause diseases in animals. Therefore, research has for long formed the foundation of medical science, with lab animals, in turn, is the basis of such research.
Through research conducted on animals, scientists have been able to achieve a better understanding of the fundamental physiologic mechanisms and the changes they undergo when infected with diseases (Quimby 183). It is from this improved understanding that medical knowledge has been constructed and integrated into laboratory and scientific processes, presently including genetic design. It is also from research on animals, specifically mice, which has transformed and developed the modern understanding of, for example, heart disease, birth defects, Parkinson’ s disease, memory loss and cystic fibrosis (Trull 1).
Although the research on animals has attracted opposition from animal activists, it should also be acknowledged that the legal requirements that preside over the handling of research animals are more extensive than those governing subjects of human research (Kvernes 1). It should also be acknowledged that it is from such regulated environments that scientists have developed valid and useful concepts such as blood transfusion, joint replacement, chemotherapy and most surgeries. Animals have been used to conduct research from ancient times, although the practice increased in popularity in more recent centuries (Birke 157).
Specific examples of contributions made by research conducted on animals and provided reliable evidence of the shared physiologic attributed between animals and humans include those by Pasteur in the 19th century. He discovered and established that fatal diseases in silkworms were caused by bacteria, through which the germ theory was advanced. Further, after investigating the virus responsible for rabies and how it was modified when passed into rabbits, a successful vaccine suitable for both humans and animals was developed (Quimby 184). Therefore, research on animals does not necessarily target to benefit humans but is beneficial to animals as well, especially considering how domesticated animals ranging from poultry to horses to cats have benefited from vaccines developed from such research.
This has evolved from the vaccine used against Marek’ s disease in poultry to the modern one used against leukaemia in cats. It is from the unique and invaluable insight provided by animal systems into human systems that such mutually beneficial developments are achieved. This is because recent advances have made it possible to compare gene defects and document significant similarities not only between animals but also between animals and humans.
Such information is invaluable in advancing modern medicine and has enabled the treatment of animals that have similar conditions. Further, nutritional supplements, cardiac pacemakers, therapy for epilepsy, anaesthetics, chemotherapy and laser surgery have been developed through animal research and still benefit both humans and animals (Quimby 186). For ages, the principles of physiology and anatomy have been established to be factual in most cases for animals and humans. From this perspective, scientists have extensively relied on animals to research and understand the conditions and diseases found in animals and humans.
Research conducted on animals has enabled scientists to develop suitable models for further research, especially among the rodents, which are chosen because of their relatively shorter life spans that speed up observations. This saw the commercialization of mice and rats to become engineered specifically for lab use outside their natural habitats (Birke 161). Viewed from another perspective, the exclusion of the natural aspect of the lab animals’ natural habitat also serves to address some complaints raised by animal rights activists (Kvernes 1).
Through such research, scientists have used genetic engineering and biotechnology to either eradicate or render treatable some killer diseases that earlier affected millions of people. For example, immunizations have been developed against hepatitis, polio, mumps and diphtheria that had for long been costing millions of lives. Surgical procedures, medical devices, and new drugs discovered and innovated from research on animals have increased the rates of survival from major diseases than has been witnessed any time before. It can, therefore, be concluded that most of the key medical discoveries in modern times have stemmed from animal research.
The success of modern medicine in boosting the average life expectancy of humans around the world has mainly been driven by the empirical results obtained from research on animals. Although the continued use of models developed from animals to research on modern medicine has been the source of debate from activists, the results of the research evidently outweigh complaints presented. The information obtained is highly useful in developing immunizations, vaccines, treatments and medical or surgical procedures for both humans and animals.
Benefits achieved from researching and testing modern medicine is evident in the fact that today, death is mainly caused by, for example, cancer and heart diseases as well as diseases associated with advanced age rather than childhood or infancy.
Birke, Lynda. “Animal Bodies in the Production of Scientific Knowledge: Modelling Medicine.” Body & Society, 18.3-4 (2012): 156-178. Print
Kvernes, Kayce. Animal Contribution to Human Medicine. Texas: UNT Digital Library.
Quimby, Fred. “Contributions to Veterinary Medicine from Animal Research.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 59 (1998): 183-192. Print.
Trull, Frankie L. “Animal Research Plays Vital Role in Human Medicine.” Tucson Citizen Apr 20 2005. ProQuest. Web. 28 Oct. 2014