Benefits to People
The benefits of animal research affect us all. Due to medical research, life expectancy in the United States has dramatically improved from an average of 49 years in 1900 to 67.6 years in 2001. By 2030, projections suggest one in five Americans will be 65 or older, and the number of people aged 85 and older—currently the fastest-growing segment of the older population—could exceed 10 million. The increase in the number of older Americans is mostly due to medical advances stemming from animal research.
What benefits have come from medical research using animals? Years ago, polio was one of the most feared diseases. In the late 1940s, polio crippled and killed thousands of people around the world every year. Polio reached a peak in the United States in 1952, with over 21,000 paralytic cases. Once a vaccine was found, polio was brought under control and practically eliminated as a public health problem in industrialized countries. Today’s children routinely receive a vaccine that provides a lifetime of protection from the disease. Children are also immunized against typhus, diphtheria, whooping cough, smallpox, and tetanus. Untold millions of people around the world are healthy adults because of these vaccines, made possible through animal research.
Diabetes is another example of the importance of biomedical research. Approximately 17 million people (6.2 % of the population) have diabetes. Nearly 1 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year, and based on death certificate information, diabetes contributed to 209,664 deaths in 1999 alone. Without insulin treatments to regulate their blood sugar levels, many more diabetics would die. Dogs were crucial to the research that identified the cause of diabetes, which led to the development of insulin. Recently, researchers have developed insulin pumps to replace injections, and current transplant research offers the hope that diabetes can be cured.
The importance of animal research to those suffering from heart and circulatory diseases cannot be overlooked. About 50 million Americans age 6 and older have high blood pressure, which can cause strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease. Research involving animals has helped identify the causes of high blood pressure and develop more effective drugs to control the problem. Other research has resulted in treatments for strokes and heart attacks that save thousands of lives and reduce recovery time. Dogs have been especially important to researchers who developed open-heart surgery, pacemakers, and heart transplants. These techniques have revolutionized the therapy for people who have severe heart disease.
In spite of the remarkable medical progress during the last century, there is still much work to be done. As the average life span increases, more people will develop diseases that primarily affect the elderly—Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and certain types of cancers. There is much to be learned about diseases such as AIDS. And millions of people around the world suffer from incurable diseases such as cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and genetic birth defects.
How exactly has animal research helped you and your family?
- Vaccinations for polio, diphtheria, mumps, measles, rubella, pertussis, and hepatitis
- Treatments for asthma, severe burns, juvenile diabetes, leukemia, newborn sickness and premature births
- Prevention and treatment of birth defects
- Antibiotics for a variety of bacterial infections
- Microsurgery to reattach severed limbs
- Remedies for childhood poisonings
- Management of epilepsy, cystic fibrosis
- Organ transplants
- Correction of congenital heart defects
Biomedical research continues today to find answers to illnesses that cut short the lives of millions of people and animals.
Number of Americans Affected by Diseases
Cardiovascular disease: 61.8 million
Hypertension: 50 million
Deafness/hearing disorders: 24 million
Sickle Cell Anemia: 70,000
Cataracts: 20.5 million
Diabetes: 17 million
Alcoholism: 14 million
Arthritis: 40.5 million
Alzheimer’s disease: 4 million
Schizophrenia: 2 million
Multiple Sclerosis: 400,000
Cystic Fibrosis: 30,000
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: 7,000 each year