By Dr. Robert Sharpe
Scientific Director of The International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals.
The use of animals in medical research presents doctors with a serious problem: are the results valid for their human patients? The difficulties arise because people and animals are different in the way their bodies work and in their reaction to drugs. While experimenters search for the species that most closely mimics human responses, a more effective and humane approach would be to concentrate resources on methods of direct relevance to people. Such techniques include human population studies, clinical observation of patients, work with healthy volunteers and test tube experiments with human tissues. Test tube, or in vitro studies enable cells to be kept alive outside the body and in some cases cultured to allow continuous growth. At present, most in vitro experiments utilize tissues from animals killed for the purpose but with the constant risk of misleading predictions, more could be achieved using material of human origin. Tissue can be obtained from healthy volunteers, during therapeutic operations or from autopsy specimens, and can be kept in cold storage until required. As the following examples show, it could save many animals in medical science, drug research, toxicity testing and in the production of biological products.
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