These major reports are important for understanding the state of the debate on research with animals. Most of the reports focus on specific challenges, such as the impact of animal welfare regulations on neuroscience research, the necessity of using chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates in biomedical and behavioral studies, and new questions raised by the use of animals containing human genes and other material. One report, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century, calls for a complete overhaul in toxicity testing, with models such as in vitro tests with human cells eventually replacing whole animal models. The reports are listed in descending order of publication.
Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Committee on science, Technology and Law; Policy and Global Affairs Division; Institute for Laboratory Animal Research; Division of Earth and Life Sciences; Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2012.
The Institute of Medicine Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders, in collaboration with the National Research Council and the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, held a workshop that brought together neuroscientists, legal scholars, administrators, and other key stakeholders to discuss current and emerging trends in animal regulations in the U.S. and the U.K. as they apply to the neurosciences. The report cites key points that emerged from the workshop, including 1) that use of nonhuman primates in neuroscience and other biomedical research complements studies involving alternative models, including in vitro tests and human brain imaging and 2) that better data sharing (for example, with systematic reviews of preclinical data) could support the 3Rs (replacement, refinement, and reduction) and improve the quality and value of animal studies.
Bruce M. Altevogt, Diana E. Pankevich, Marilee K. Shelton-Davenport, and Jeffrey P. Kahn, editors; Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2011.
The Institute of Medicine, in collaboration with the National Research Council, conducted an in-depth analysis of the scientific necessity of using chimpanzees in NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research. The report concludes that while the chimpanzee has been a valuable animal model in the past, most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary. However, the report does not call for a ban on the use of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research because it is impossible to predict whether research on emerging or new diseases may necessitate chimpanzees in the future.
The Academy of Medical Sciences, London, July 2011.
Animals containing human tissues, cells, or genetic information are used to develop and produce new therapeutics and to refine research methods, by creating animal models that better represent human disease. While transgenic rodents and animals with human tissue grafts have been used for a long time without major ethical or regulatory difficulties, technologies are advancing rapidly; more extensive sections of DNA can be manipulated, and methods using human stem cells to replace parts of tissue, or even whole organs, are increasingly refined. These approaches may soon enable us to modify animals to an extent that might challenge social, ethical, or regulatory boundaries. The report identifies areas that might merit special consideration: extensive modification of the brain of an animal, by implantation of human-derived cells, that might result in altered cognitive capacity approaching human “consciousness” or “sentience” or “humanlike” behavioral capabilities; situations where fertilization between human or human-derived gametes and animal gametes might occur; and cellular or genetic modifications which could result in animals with humanlike appearance or characteristics, such as speech.
Review of Research Using Non-Human Primates: Report of a panel chaired by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, London, 2011.
This report is the product of an independent, systematic review of research from 1997 to 2006 using nonhuman primates. Commissioned and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council, and Wellcome Trust, it assesses the quality, outputs, and impact of the research, and it identifies the strengths and weakness of the funded science in this field, with the goal of informing future science and funding strategies and informing the U.K. government strategy on use of nonhuman primates. The report finds many uses of nonhuman primates justifiable, even in the context of current understanding of animal welfare and even allowing that advances in knowledge may render some research on whole animals unnecessary. But it expresses concern that a small proportion (approximately 9 percent) of the research has no clear scientific, medical, or social benefit. The report makes several recommendations, including that researchers use alternative models, including human subjects, when possible, as replacements for nonhuman primates.
Committee on Toxicity Testing and Assessment of Environmental Agents, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2007.
Advances in molecular biology and toxicology are paving the way for major improvements in the evaluation of the hazards posed by the large number of chemicals found at low levels in the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked the National Research Council to review the state of the science and create a far-reaching vision for the future of toxicity testing. The report recommends developing, improving, and validating tests that use human cells and cell components instead of animals. It concludes that substantial scientific efforts and resources will be required to leverage these new technologies to realize the vision, but that the result will be a more efficient, informative, and less costly system for assessing the hazards posed by industrial chemicals and pesticides.
Nuffield Council on Bioethics, London, 2005.
The report lays out the debate over research involving animals and aims to help people think through the ethical issues that are raised. It also makes practical recommendations for future policy and practice.