NIH’s support of research with animals has been critical for advancing prevention, early detection, and treatment of countless diseases. Animal research has been crucial in the early stages of development of nearly every safe and effective drug in our medicine cabinet. It also led to the development of penicillin, insulin , blood transfusions, and modern-day treatments of breast cancer , sickle cell anemia , Duchenne muscular dystrophy , and epilepsy . Other examples include the development of Human Papillomavirus and anthrax vaccines, as well as methods and approaches for organ transplantation. Basic science research that includes research with animals is designed to improve our understanding of health and disease, but may also provide important information to help develop future prevention and treatment strategies.
Examples of how NIH-supported research using animals have contributed to important biomedical advances are below, including how these advances have improved our knowledge, health, and society.
- Scientists have revealed how stimulating electrical signals in our brains can treat lost nerve function. These discoveries, which involved research with animals, eventually led to strategies that relieve the effects of Parkinson’s disease and hearing loss.
- Successful vaccine development has addressed a wide array of conditions. For instance, the vaccines now available to fight the COVID-19 virus were first studied in mice and non-human primates. These animal species were also critical to creating a vaccine that has nearly eliminated bacterial meningitis in children, an infection that previously contributed to serious, long-term disability and death.
- As previously mentioned, basic science, sometimes called “fundamental” science, helps researchers understand living systems and life processes. Animals are invaluable throughout basic science to obtain this fundamental knowledge, which leads to better ways to predict, prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. For instance, did you know that the hair on gecko toes inspired the design of medical adhesives for use on delicate skin? Learn more about basic science here.
- Did you know that NIH funds clinical trials studying cancers that naturally occur in pets ? This comparative oncology research of spontaneous cancers are relevant models for human cancers and informs the understanding and treatment of human disease.
- Looking at data from more than 100 different reptiles and amphibians (such as turtles, salamanders, and crocodiles), researchers supported by NIH have revealed some insights into aging that may help better understand longevity in humans .
Read more about animal models of disease in the NIH Director’s blog .