Fundamental Principles of Animal Research

Animal Models for the Study of Human Disease, 2nd Ed.

Edited by P. M. Conn, Academic Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0-12-809468-6, xix + 1,177 pages, $US300.

I have been peripherally involved in animal research during my career, working with an orthopedic surgeon on fracture healing in dogs, with a physician studying cardioactive drugs in mice, and so on. I have worked with human volunteers in metabolism research and been a subject myself in several studies. I have family members who have been involved in drug research and have written a minor amount of text on drug development.

None of my experiences was sufficient preparation for the experience of reviewing this text. It informed me of the extent to which animal models could be used to treat a wide variety of human diseases.

This single-editor text consists of contributions from some 120 authors. Except for the first three chapters, the text is largely (human) disease oriented, with each section elaborating on an area of human disease.

The text consists of 44 chapters, divided generally by main topics into 13 sections. The one exception is section A, which covers ethics, resources, and approaches. Chapter 1, “Ethics in Biomedical Animal Research: The Key Role of the Investigator,” offers an excellent review of the use of animal models in research efforts to decrease human suffering or, as stated by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.” The fundamental principles of animal research ethics are well covered in this chapter, and, as an entity, this chapter is highly recommended, covering the essence of what is involved in humane, justifiable research using nonhumans.

Chapter 2, “Psychological Environmental Enrichment of Animals in Research,” explains that animal care needs to consider minimizing stress on the animals concerned because their well-being can be reflected in the research outcomes. One does not need the confounding stress of poor animal care! Chapter 3 is unique in that it covers many of the aspects of large farm animals in research, rather than the often-used rodent models. An obvious justification is that, for some disease models, size matters and larger animals might be the best model, thus “whatever best informs the researcher.” The remainder of the text coverage is presented in Table 1.



A smattering of insights includes Chapter 33 (Section K), which covers various fairly recently publicized diseases, i.e., Zika, Middle East respiratory syndrome (or MERS), hantaviruses, and HIV. Cancer and CRISPR technologies, a long with disease models, are covered in Chapter 34, and the use of animals for the study of breast cancer is treated in Chapter 35 (Sect ion L). Pigs are good animals to study for diseases involving cognition. Houseflies, mice, pigs, and rats are good animals for some studies involving urinary stone diseases. Animal stress is an indication that a study might need to be terminated.

Each chapter is well written and well referenced. For example, the chapter on Alzheimer’s modeling consists of 30 pages of text followed by 18 pages of references. Overall, the text is very comprehensive and gives great insight into which animal models are best for a particular area of human disease research.

It should be recognized that other methods of study might replace some of the worked detailed in Animal Models for the Study of Human Disease, such as using human cells in lab-on-a-chip constructs. This text is recommended as a state-of-the-art overview of animal models for the study of human disease, as the title suggests. Due to its size and coverage, it is recommended as a reference text rather than as a classroom requirement. It is hoped that the text will be kept up to date for the benefit of us all.