Humane Science

Conducting Research without Harming Animals 


Take a look at the world of technology and how it has changed every aspect of our lives over the past 25 years, and even more recently.

Compare, for example, the technology that sustained the cumbersome rotary dialed telephone to the lighter cordless key-pad phones of the 1980s, to the technology that gives us the Android or iPhone today. These things are worlds apart.

Giant, clumsy vacuum tubes powered the earliest computers, later replaced by much smaller transistors, but still bogged down by endless connections that were fragile and slow. This has all been replaced by the integrated circuit, more commonly known as the microchip, the foundation for all modern electronics, enabling the efficient and miniaturized versions we use today.

The revolution in technology that has brought the PC, the Internet, the microcircuit chip, the mapping of the human genome, nanotechnology, digital imaging, and lasers have had equal, monumental impact on the world of biomedical science.

The explosion of new technologies is so large, impressive and constantly emerging that it has sparked a paradigm shift in biology and medicine.

And yet, people continue to ask: how can we conduct biomedical research without animals? They ask because they are fed misinformation in the mainstream media and through most prevailing channels: the belief that animals are necessary for medical research and that without them it would come to a grinding halt.

In fact, the opposite is true. Biomedical advances are happening daily without the use of animals. Moreover, if we devoted more time, energy, resources, funding and political power to non-animal methods, we would see increasing enhancements for human health. That’s because one hundred percent of our effort would go towards the study of human medicine and biology, not looking at animals and trying to draw human conclusions from them.

These technologies offer ways to conduct the most effective science and health research, focusing entirely on human-based medicine, and without the use of animals. 


Genomics – the study of the function and mapping of genes – has sparked a revolution in biology and medicine. New technologies examine the workings of thousands of genes, revealing how they interact in the living organism, giving rise to the emerging field of systems biology.

The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, has yielded unrivaled data about human genes and DNA, allowing doctors and scientists to study the contribution of genetic factors to diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and neurological disease.

Genome-based research has brought us new diagnostic tools and therapies and also ushered in the age of personalized medicine, allowing clinicians to customize drug* therapies to an individual’s genetic make-up in order to enhance efficacy and reduce side effects.

In Vitro Research

In vitro research examines cells and biological molecules outside the living body, in a contained environment, such as a test tube. With the growth of this field, human tissue banks have greatly expanded to provide human cells and tissues that can be used effectively in drug* development and other treatments.

Today’s cell culture research is highly sophisticated and includes testing platforms that allow for the interaction of multi-cell systems that approximate the intact living body.

The U.S. Department of Defense co-sponsored a report in 2011 titled: “Animal Models for Assessing Countermeasures to Bioterrorism Agents,” which acknowledged that no animal methods were currently available for this purpose. But rather than calling for the development of more animal research, the report recommended that “Changing the standard practice of animal experimentation where feasible to approximate the clinical course of treatment for humans could provide a more reasonable prediction of the usefulness of countermeasures during the development process.” [1]

The outcome of this effort, announced in 2013, was an innovative cell culture technology that combined 3D bioprinting using “ink” composed of human cells to create an innovative “body-on-a-chip” to evaluate how the human body might respond to agents of chemical or biological warfare.

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which is leading this effort in combination with four other institutions, believes this novel approach could reduce animal tests which are inefficient, expensive, and most important, not always applicable to humans. Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Institute explained how this will be better than testing on animals because scientists are actually testing human tissue. [2]

Stem cell Research    

Stem cell research is one area of in vitro technology that uses specialized cells offering extraordinary capability for innovative treatments, particularly for many diseases that presently have no cure, such as multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Stem cells possess unique properties that enable them to develop into many different cell types under the right conditions. Because of these qualities they may be useful for repairing or replenishing diseased body tissue.

Preliminary studies in humans have demonstrated the ability of stems cells to be injected during open-heart surgery to promote the growth of new blood vessels. Other early work is being done with stem cells to repair insulin-producing cells that are lacking in individuals with diabetes. [3]

Though in the early stages of research, stem cell research has become an intense focus for many scientists because of the great potential it offers. Unfortunately, much research is being carried out with animal stem cells, another example of science’s tendency to utilize animals over human options.  A study done at Yale University in 2012 demonstrated that “human embryonic cells operate in fundamentally different ways in humans than in mouse cells,” underscoring once again why animal research is side-stepping direct research with human medicine. [4]

Medical Imaging

Medical imaging modalities, including MRI, CT scans, PET scans and others, offer a window into the living body, often in real time, to understand, study, view, diagnose and in many cases treat medical conditions.  The New England Journal of Medicine named medical imaging one of top developments that “changed the face of clinical medicine” during the last millennium. [5]

While MRI has been invaluable for understanding anatomical structure, another scanning mode, known as “functional magnetic resonance imaging”, (fMRI), is able to follow brain activity, based on its ability to detect areas of increased blood flow in the brain. These areas of blood flow indicate heightened brain activity and allow fMRI to measure and evaluate which areas of the brain are involved with a specific mental process. [6]  They allow for fully relevant human clinical research, providing the non-invasive study of learning, memory, pain and emotional states in humans, thereby replacing inhumane and invasive studies that vainly attempt to study these states in animals. 

Technology and Bioengineering

The world of bioengineering has brought us many scientific innovations, including the field of “tissue engineering” which has enabled the creation of simulated tissues derived from real human cells.

The MatTek Corporation (, a leader in the production of innovative 3D human tissue models, introduced its first 3D cell-based in vitro model for human skin, EpiDerm™ in 1993, and has since gone on to develop models for skin, eye and respiratory tissues, among others, which have successfully evaluated the safety and effectiveness of cosmetic, chemical, pharmaceutical and household products.

Other  biotech companies like The Hurel Corporation (, and Asterand ( offer human cell-based technologies, allowing scientists and clinicians to conduct research that is one hundred percent relevant to human medicine and unhampered by the problems that beset animal experiments.

Mapping the Future

The pioneering methods discussed on this page are just the tip of an iceberg of new technologies that have prompted a revolution in biomedical and scientific research, and rendered reliance on animals outdated and even counterproductive.

So powerful and effective are these non-animal technologies that in 2008, several key U.S. government agencies arrived at a revolutionary agreement to begin phasing out animal testing and instead pursue innovative and animal-free methods to evaluate the safety of new drugs and chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program, and the National Institutes of Health launched the ToxCast initiative to promote cutting-edge technology to replace the use of animals in toxicity testing. [7]

The ToxCast program is based on a report issued by the National Research Council in 2007, which called for the development of modern methods to evaluate chemical toxicity that “dramatically reduce the need for animal testing because the new tests would be based on human cells and cell components.” [8]

These technologies are just a sampling of all that twenty-first century science has to offer while sparing animals’ suffering and allowing new and exciting results in human medicine. Imagine how much further we could go if the resources currently directed to experimenting on millions of animals each year in the U.S. were redirected toward humane and fully relevant human-focused research.

* Note: Even though there are many effective methods for developing drugs without animals, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) continues to require that all drugs be tested on animals before proceeding to human clinical trials. CAARE believes this requirement is unnecessary and leads to millions of needless animal tests each year. Many other advocacy groups, as well as scientists, have called for this regulation to be changed.

[1] Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, 2011, “Animal Models for Assessing Countermeasures to Bioterrorism Agents,”

[2] BBC News: Technology, “'Body on a chip' uses 3D printed organs to test vaccines” Sept 17, 2013,

[3] US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, “Stem Cell Basics”, retrieved June 8, 2014

[4] e! Science News. 2012. Yale researchers show how embryonic stem cells orchestrate human development. e! Science News, April 6 2012 [cited April 9 2012]. Available from!+Science+News+-+Popular%29

[5] Editors. “Looking back on the millennium in medicine”. New Engl J Med 342: 42-49, 2000.

[6] Devlin, H, PsychCentral, “What is functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging?”, web retrieved July 11, 2014

[7] EPA press release, 2008, New Strategy Aims to Reduce Reliance on Animal Testing

[8] Committee on Toxicity Testing and Assessment of Environmental Agents, et al, Toxicity Testing for the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, October 19, 2007