One of the main aims of basic biological and medical research is to obtain as comprehensive an image as possible of the complex interactions that take place in the human body. This is essential to gaining an understanding of diseases and to the development of the corresponding drugs and treatment methods. Although a large part of biomedical basic research involves animal-free testing methods, some questions can only be answered with the help of animal research. Alternative methods, such as computer models and cell cultures, can only reveal part of the overall picture.
Given the extensive biological similarity between humans and animals, when it is not possible to study complex processes and interactions in the body directly on humans, laboratory animals offer the best possible alternative. All of the cells and organs, for example the heart, liver, kidneys, nerves and brain, fulfil the same tasks in two-legged and four-legged beings. Many diseases that pose a threat to humans also arise in the same or similar form in animals. Dogs get diabetes, some rats develop high blood pressure and mice and rats suffer from cancer and viral infections. Therefore, many questions can be investigated with the help of so-called animal models. The differences between humans and animals are, of course, taken into account in the design of the tests – for example, in the dosage or way in which drugs are administered.
Moreover, such research often results in the discovery of treatments that can be used on both humans and animals. Almost 90 percent of all drugs used to treat humans and house pets are identical.