A prevailing myth is that even if animal experiments are problematic at the cellular or genetic level, we can learn something from them using the basic biomechanics of physiology. But this also has proven false. A recent study on anatomical predictions of muscle measurements based on experiments in mice showed that these are incorrect and can adversely impact surgical procedures on humans.
Scientists made similar errors using animal blood as a stand-in for human blood when developing an artificial kidney. For years they were thwarted by how to keep the blood flowing smoothly through the artificial device without clotting because animal blood has different clotting properties than human blood.
Two other areas where animal experiments have failed consistently are showing promise through new human research: depression and sepsis. Magnetic stimulation of the scalp alleviated severe depression in a study that demonstrated changes in patients’ brainwaves, while artificial intelligence was shown to improve human assessment for treatment timing.
Humans Are Not Just Big Mice: Current Anatomical Predictions for Muscle Are Wrong
New research from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab further confirms that animals are poor models for studying humans and reaffirms the need to replace animal testing with superior, human-relevant alternatives.
The discovery that human muscle measurements are inaccurate happened when scientists transplanted a human patient’s gracilis (leg) muscle into the arm following an injury during which they measured the muscle properties and scaling predictions.
Using information from previous animal studies, scientists had estimated the measurement of human muscle contractile properties based on those of mice, but by studying actual human muscles they found significant differences that have important implications for surgical procedures and research.
Researchers treat depression by reversing brain signals traveling the wrong way
Scientists have conducted countless experiments on animals to study human depression with meager results. In this all-human study at Stanford University, scientists worked with transcranial magnetic stimulation, or powerful magnetic pulses applied to the scalp. These can help alleviate severe depression in people but until now it was unknown how this worked.
Scientists recruited 33 patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant major depressive order, some of which received Stanford neuromodulation therapy (SNT), which uses advanced imaging technologies to direct magnetic pulses to the brain. Others served as controls.
The fMRI data showed that in most depressed patients the flow of activity was reversed; the anterior cingulate cortex sent signals to the anterior insula, a pattern that in healthy controls is reversed.
The SNT treatment reversed the flow of signals within one week, which coincided with alleviation in depression. According to Nolan Miller, MD, one of the study leaders “The fMRI data that allows precision treatment with SNT can be used both as a biomarker for depression and a method of personalized targeting to treat its underlying cause.”
Artificial intelligence advises sepsis treatment in intensive care units
Artificial intelligence is already playing an important role in diagnostics, but training artificial intelligence to consider time-varying conditions and calculate treatments is much harder. Now, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna and TU Wien have done just that, applying it to sepsis.
Researchers analyzed data about sepsis patients from intensive care hospitals using a form of machine learning called reinforcement learning that takes into account temporally changing progressions.
The computer is trained to recommend treatment options and has already outperformed humans when comparing the mortality rate of sepsis patients. This technology has the potential to greatly improve outcomes for sepsis and other medical problems.
Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research & Experiments (CAARE), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, established to highlight and promote research without animals.
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