People Often Ask the Questions…
“How can the research be useful when animals are different from people?”
“People and animals suffer from different diseases, so how can scientists justify performing experiments on animals?”
Even though animals differ from people in many ways, they also are very similar to people in many ways. Animals develop many of the same diseases as people, including hemophilia, diabetes, and epilepsy. Animals are also susceptible to many of the same bacteria and viruses as people, such as anthrax, smallpox, and malaria. An animal is chosen as an “animal model” for research only if it shares characteristics with people that are relevant to the research. For example, Louis Pasteur was able to use dogs as an animal model for studying rabies. He was able to develop a rabies vaccine because (1) dogs and people can both develop rabies, and (2) the immune systems of dogs and people react to the rabies virus in the same way. For this research, it did not matter that humans and dogs differ in other ways; for example, dogs cannot develop AIDS or measles, diseases that do affect humans.
ANIMAL MODEL—An animal in which normal biology and behavior or a disease or disability can be studied, and in which the normal or abnormal biology is similar to that in humans
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)—A fatal disease caused by the HIV virus. The HIV virus destroys T cells, which are the cells that fight infection. Eventually, the immune system is weakened enough that common illnesses become life threatening.