Do animals suffer from human diseases?

A common argument heard against the use of animals in research is that animals do not naturally suffer from the same conditions as humans do.  Thus, the argument goes, it makes no sense to study human disease in animals.

However, my UCLA colleagues Barbara Natterson-Horowitz MD and Kathryn Bowers, authors of Zoobiquity, explain that the opposite is the case. The book along with videos explain how is that animals and humans indeed get many of the same diseases, and how knowledge from animal and human health is being used to improve the well being of both.

For example, often times it is stated that addiction is merely human problem.  But explained in the video below, animals also seek such substances in the wild, often with tragic consequences.

It is thus not surprising that scientists have made tremendous advances to study how substances alter the brain reward circuits that underlie such behavior.  You can learn more about addiction by visiting SfN’s brain facts web-site here.  For more examples of naturally occurring conditions, such as STD, eating disorders and breast cancer, are shared across species watch these other videos.

We should also remember that a disease does not need to occur naturally at a high frequency in animals for studies of animal models of it to be highly informative. An excellent example of this is the study of genetically modified mice, where in just the past week we have posted links on our Facebook and Twitter pages to articles discussing important scientific insights and promising therapeutic approaches by researchers studying the genetic disorder Rett syndrome, breast cancer,  the human prion protein diseases fatal familial insomnia and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and HIV transmission. These examples, and the study of naturally occurring animal diseases mentioned earlier, serve to highlight the need for scientists to use a wide variety of species and disease models as they strive to understand biological systems and develop tomorrow’s medicines.

Speaking of Research