Updated on 19 October, 2021
Animal testing, sometimes called animal research, laboratory testing and in vitro testing, is the utilization of non human animals in experimental treatments aimed to manipulate the variables which impact on the physiological system or behavior under study. This may include genetic, genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, molecular biology and genetic engineering. It involves the study of animals such as rats, guinea pigs, dogs, cats, chickens, etc., used for experimental purposes in medical, veterinary and other research laboratories. The most commonly used animals are rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, rats, monkeys and snakes. These animals are used for biomedical research mainly because of their short lifecycles, ability to breed well and because they are easy to work with. Some are even used for cosmetic and food ingredient testing.
Under certain circumstances, these animals are required in the experiment but sometimes, they cannot be brought due to various reasons like the inability to yield hormones, disease, injuries, etc. For such situations, alternative animal sources can be used like stem cells and blood obtained from other animals such as human. These stem cells are then injected into the animals under medical supervision to perform the experiments. Other animals used for research purposes are mice, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and non human primates. Primates in particular are extensively used in laboratory experiments for comparative analysis of human and animal genes.
Animals are used for laboratory tests for several reasons including determining the effects of a disease, identifying chemical substances that may prove useful for pharmaceutical products, detecting and preventing diseases, learning about the mechanisms of behavior, studying the human brain and the development of animals. Primatology is an area of animal studies that studies the physiological, behavioral and genetic development of Primates. Primates are used in many animal experiments for studying intelligence, behavior, reproduction and development. Some of the other animal experiments that involve Primates include studying Chimpanzees and dolphins for their use in medical and veterinary science.
Rats have also been used in animal experiments in several instances. Two rat species, White-Rumped rats and Yellow-Rumped rats have been extensively used in biomedical research. These animals have been tested for long term toxic and cancer toxicity as well as for genetic abnormalities and immune system defects. Studies on rats have also shown their resistance to neurological disorders, allergies, infections. However, these tests must be carried out only after adequate acclimatization of the animals for the exposure.
There are many animals like dogs and cats that undergo a lot of stress and strain in day-to-day living. Stress can lead to many illnesses and diseases. To minimize the impact of stress on animals like dogs and cats for animal testing every year, proper health care is provided to them and their surroundings.
There are different techniques used in animal testing every year. The most common technique used is electrophoresis. This is done by adding an electrospray chemical to the animal's blood stream. The chemical attacks the animal's nerve cells and causes them to become temporarily inactivated or dis-inflated.
Animal testing on humans is another popular technique used in medical and pharmaceutical research. A panel of healthy volunteers is chosen who don't have any disease or illness which may affect their ability to give blood. For this special category of volunteer, animal testing is performed. Some of these volunteers are given drugs that are not suitable for them to take and still undergo testing. Other animals for testing undergo drug challenges, in other words, they are given medications under controlled conditions which simulate human disease.
The purpose of testing is to determine how a compound or drug will react when it comes into contact with the different systems of the body. These include the immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems. It aims to find out how the drug will react in these systems. Many animal rights activists are trying to raise awareness about these types of testing. Animal rights advocates are also calling for more alternative methods of drug testing which are more humane.