Animal Research: What You May Not Know
Sharon L. Juliano is the director of neuroscience and a professor at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. She is a past chair of SfN’s Committee on Animals in Research and past chair of Animals in Research at the International Brain Research Organization.
Why is the topic of animals in research so important?
Animal research saves lives. It is essential. Practically every present-day protocol for the prevention, control, cure of disease, and relief of pain is based on knowledge attained — directly or indirectly — through research with animals. Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century — for both human and animal health.
The very important achievements of animal research include antibiotics, analgesics, anti-depressants, anesthetics, successful development of organ transplants, bypass surgery, heart catheterization, and joint replacement.
What plays a role in our ability to do animal research?
Rules and regulations are one major area. In the U.S., there are a number of different laws that require you to abide by specific guidelines for the care and use of laboratory animals if you receive funding from a federal source. For example, the U.S. Public Health Service Act requires all scientists receiving funds from NIH, FDA, or CDC to adhere to the standards in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. USDA’s Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations also require specific care for animals in research, regardless of the source of funding.
“Animal law” also has implications for scientific research. Animal law is a concept that’s been rapidly evolving in recent years. In the mid-1990s, only one or two law schools in the U.S. offered courses focused on animal law. By 2010, however, approximately 121 U.S. and Canadian law schools offered courses focused on animal law. Among these law schools, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Georgetown, Northwestern, Duke, UCLA, and the University of Virginia have funded animal law centers within the past decade. Animal law journals established since 2009 include University of Louisville’s Journal of Animal and Environmental Law, Stanford Journal of Animal Law & Policy, University of Pennsylvania’s Journal of Animal Law and Ethics, and Michigan State University’s Journal of Animal and Natural Resource Law.
Have you made any visits to schools or have you spoken to the public about the use of animals in research?
I have gone to elementary schools and talked about animal research with kids, mostly between ages six and eight. It’s been a lot of fun talking to them. They want to know if the animals are hurting or, if we’re doing a surgery, if it’s painful to them. I talk about anesthesia and how we relieve pain. The kids are also interested in the brain and science, asking lots of questions on how the brain works. I’ve also spoken with politicians. They’ve been gracious and accepting, and I think they’re very interested.
Do you think we should include discussion of the use of animals in research for Brain Awareness Week?
Yes, I think we should. There are a number of very positive things we can do, such as explaining how well animals are cared for, how we go about making their environment as comfortable and natural as possible, and how we are very concerned about pain release.
Adapted from the webinar “The Care of Animals in Research,” featuring Sharon Juliano and supported by NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke under award number R25NS089462, Grass Foundation, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Latin American Regional Committee of the International Brain Research Organization, and SfN.