A ‘shortage’ of animals for labs will help, not hinder, a COVID-19 research
We continue to hear the assertion that “animals have played an indispensable role in virtually every medical breakthrough.” This is an often-repeated claim that is without supporting evidence, and which has been rebutted in scientific journals. In fact, animal research is so misleading due to significant biological differences between species that any human success is often despite it, not because of it. A claim of sufficient biological similarity due to monkeys and humans sharing 90% of genes is superficial. Any scientist worth their salt appreciates that the major differences lie in how those genes we share are expressed.
Take COVID-19 as an example. First, animals like mice and monkeys don’t “get” COVID-19 the same way we do. Second, it is human-based research methods that we have to thank for progress against the disease. Using these techniques, scientists have discovered how the virus enters and affects human cells, and what existing drugs can prevent this from happening or limit symptoms if it does. Existing drugs have been selected and prioritized for repurposing for COVID-19 using computers. Researchers using human-based methods have shown that the virus enters the human brain and central nervous system, the liver, the heart, the kidney, the eyes and the pancreas.
Thanks to these methods that are based on human biology, we are much less likely to go down the path of research into, for example, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and malaria. Research on animal models in these fields has failed to find vaccines that worked in humans for decades — all the while finding vaccines that worked, or at least showed promise, in animals.
Fortunately, cutting-edge science is showing the way. The urgent need for a paradigm shift, away from cruel and misleading animal experiments and toward human-specific methods, has never been more widely appreciated, with more scientists than ever working collaboratively to achieve this.