Background 

What Is It?                                     

Animal models are living organisms, namely animals(non-human), used for medical research(wikipedia.org). The animals chosen must be taxonomically similar to humans in order for them to react the same way to the condition or treatment. Animal models either have the disease the researchers wish to study, or it is given to them by modifying their genomes. Using animal models helps us research different human diseases, allowing us to get a better understanding of the condition and find cures without harming humans.

All animals, including humans, have things in common. For example we all have organs and biological systems, which all perform their same functions in a similar way. Since we are so alike, we can study the diseases in other animals and learn more about them(speakingofreasearch.com). 

The animal models used for research have a condition nearly identical to a human's that is either existing, inherited, or induced(wikipedia.org). If the animal being tested doesn't have the disease, then sometimes scientists have to revert to inserting the disease into the animal or altering their genomes. Genomes are all of the inheritable traits of an organism, so once the animal obtains the disease it will pass it to its offspring. In order for the research to be accurate, the disease the animal model has must be caused the same way and operate the same way as in a human. Being able to recreate diseases allows us to gain the knowledge necessary for researchers to find diagnoses and treatments.

Why Animals?

Though using other animals to study the diseases may help us save lives, many protest the idea and think it's wrong. They believe that it's animal cruelty, and want it stopped. But, if we didn't test on animals, we would have to test on humans and risk the lives of others. And if there weren't models for research at all, we would never have been able to come as far as we have with medicine and our knowledge of diseases. Even if we tried reverting to growing the viruses in a test tube it wouldn't work. Why? Because animals have organs, biological systems, and immune systems, while test tubes don't. Finding a cure that works in a test tube doesn't necessarily mean it will work on humans(speakingofresearch.com).

When Did we Start Using Them?

The first record of animal models being studied was in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. It is said Aristotle and Erasistratus had been some of the first to experiment on live animals. In 2nd century Rome, a man named Galen had been the first to actually dissect animals(answers.yourdictionary.com). The reason people decided to start using animals was because they didn't have to risk the lives of humans, and they are much smaller than us and can be controlled easier. It's amazing how far back this innovative way to study disease can be traced.

The Casper fish(shown above) was created by Richard White in 2007. It is a cross between nacre and roy, two types of mutant zebra fish. The offspring produced are transparent, allowing scientists to see inside the fish. This is a branch of vivo imaging, or studying things that are happening inside an actual organism

These little fish are commonly used as animal models for cancer research since you can see exactly how the cancerous cells spread as the fish develops. Scientists can then use this information to understand how cancer acts in the human body. 

Not only are Casper fish used for cancer research, but they can also be studied to see exactly how organs develop. Also, you can track the development of blood vessels, brain tissue and intestines.

 

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