In the fourth chapter of his book, Rigor Mortis, Richard Harris delves into the complications regarding animal testing, particularly pertaining to mice and rats. “Misled by Mice” further altered my point of view of biomedical studies by shedding light on the inaccurate results and false hope fostered by experiments that utilize animal experimentation.
The imprecise conditions of biomedical experiments, especially those that use animals, are putting human lives at risk. People are in need of solutions for illness, but the results of experiments to curate them are often riddled with inaccuracies. Not only are human lives being put at risk, but so are those of millions of animals. Richard Harris wrote, “Nobody keeps a tally of the numbers used, but often-quoted estimates put the figure in the United States alone at well over 10 million animals a year, the vast majority being mice” (page 73 to 74). Only a thin minority of these mice will have been tested on for an experiment that has useful results. There is always the likely possibility that a biomedical investigation will fail, yet those that are poorly designed are taking less care that animal lives will be unnecessarily taken. In Ariel W.’s post, she discussed the possibilities of human testing. Her post made me question if tests performed on human volunteers would manufacture more useful and reproducible results, because of the care scientists would take with human lives. Lab mice are seen as disposable, but the risk of harming humans would increase rigor within lab work.
A more controlled and humane solution to the problems that animal testing encompasses is often referred to as “organ-on-a-chip”. This major finding surprised me because it seemed to solve so many reproducibility issues found within labs, especially ones regarding the subject or vehicle of the experiment. The Economist described some of them “Animals are not necessarily good analogues for humans because of fundamental differences in biology. Testing on tissue in a dish can likewise prove unreliable because its cells often stop working. The more realistic data promised by organs-on-a-chip could accelerate drug development and allow researchers to carry out experiments too risky for human volunteers.” This technology seems extremely useful to the scientific community, so I was curious as to why the FDA hadn’t yet approved it. I did some research and found that the FDA partnered with a company to develop these chips shortly after Rigor Mortis was published. I can honestly say I am excited to learn about the cures this technology will help to forge.