Animal research has been essential in developments such as:
- antiretroviral medicines for HIV patients
- asthma inhalers
- insulin for diabetes
- vaccine against cervical cancer, introduced in the UK for 12 and 13 year old girls
We work with animals when there are no suitable alternatives and strive to replace them with non-animal techniques wherever possible. Over 90% of medical research conducted at the University does not involve work on animals.
Parkinson's diseaseParkinson's disease
Newcastle clinicians and researchers within the Institute for Ageing are fitting 'pacemakers' to the brains of patients with Parkinson’s Disease to control tremors.
Deep brain stimulation (often referred to as DBS) is the main type of surgery used and while it's not a cure, it can give some people much better control of their symptoms which include tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity. Parkinson's affects about 127,000 people in the UK.
This treatment was developed by scientists working on macaque monkeys who found electrodes stimulated in an area of the brain (the subthalamic nucleus) blocked the nerve signals causing the tremors, and alleviated the symptoms.
Without this treatment patients like Mike Robbins, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, would not be able to control their symptoms.
Muscular dystrophyMuscular dystrophy
The Institute of Genetic Medicine is one of the UK's leading rare disease centres with a specialism in one of the most severe forms, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).
DMD causes muscles to waste and means that most children with the condition need a wheelchair by the age of 11.
Mice are also affected by MD and researchers study the naturally occurring strain which is similar to DMD and found in the mdx mouse. Researchers have now developed gene therapies which can slow down or even reverse the progression of DMD in children.
Heart diseaseHeart disease
Almost one in every 100 babies are born with a heart defect and heart failure affects three quarters of a million people in the UK each year. Biomedical research into the genetic causes of these human problems requires the use of 'knockout' mice – a genetically engineered mouse in which researchers have inactivated, or 'knocked out', an existing gene by replacing it or disrupting it with an artificial piece of DNA.
However, the zebrafish which can mend its own heart muscle are a helpful alternative for investigating the fundamental aspects of how hearts form, function and repair themselves.
The developing eggs allow scientists to study the earliest stages of heart formation and the adult hearts have an amazing ability to regenerate. Scientists hope their ability to repair damaged heart tissue could lead to new treatments that could provide a vast improvement in quality of life for people who have damaged hearts, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.
More information on animal research can be seen on the web pages of: