The Animal Issue


Time after time headlines in the news will spotlight a recently developed drug that may potentially provide treatment to patients that suffer from diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. These drugs appear in the news because they have reached the late or near final stages of the drug development process where they can be tested in clinical trials involving humans who are living with these diseases. But again and again it seems that these drugs are discontinued at this late stage and are thwarted out of becoming the medical therapies their developers had hoped to create. Why is this so?

In a recent edition of The Lancet Neurology, an article discussed the problems for drug development in Alzheimer’s disease. And, although the summary only focused on this disease, the problems discussed can explain why drugs being tested for diseases like MS are also failing. One of the reasons that The Lancet Neurology gives to explain drug failure is the animal issue.

Before a drug can be tested in humans, it must go through an animal model that is designed to be as humanlike as possible. This way researchers can observe how the drug will react with the newly developed treatment as if it were being tested in a human system. However, it is almost impossible to create an animal model that will react to a treatment in the same way a human would or one that can “accurately reflect human pathogenesis.” So, after experimentation, what a researcher has actually found is a drug that appears to cure, alleviate symptoms of and repair damage from a disease in an animal. Yet, when the drug is tested in humans and it does not have the same effect as it did in the animal model, the drug is rendered useless to treat human diseases. Then it’s back to the drawing board.

The term “translational research” is something else The Lancet Neurology questions. It looks easy on paper, but attempting to translate drug response in animal models to human clinical trials is something that rarely seems to pan out. This is why it is important to create animal models that directly model human pathogenesis.

If you would like to read more about this issue, check out the article in The Lancet Neurology here

Posted by: Megan Rechin


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