Introduction

Animal-based research has significantly contributed to the advancement of scientific knowledge in general and to biomedical progress specifically. Studies on animals have provided basic information on animal biology and physiology; this information, in turn, has important relevance to human biology. Animal models of human disorders have added invaluable information about many aspects of the pathophysiology, treatment, and diagnosis of human diseases. Moreover, experimental results from animal studies have served as the basis for many key clinical trials and will lead to future therapeutic interventions. Established animal models, as well as others that will be developed in the future, help address increasingly challenging new questions in biomedical science. This is a time of change in animal-based research as the scientific community proceeds from the deciphering of the genetic code of a range of animal species to the determination of the functions of the genes that are identified with increasing frequency.

The total yearly value of laboratory animal sales for rodents is in the multimillion-dollar range and may increase by 10 to 20 percent annually according to experts.1 Given the magnitude of biomedical research, with its economic and political impacts, a clear understanding of the central function that laboratory animals play in biomedical research is of fundamental importance. This chapter focuses first on past and present contributions of laboratory animals in biomedicine. Then, we discuss the essential future roles of laboratory animals in contributing to potential advancements of biomedical research. Finally, we discuss the necessity of expanding issues related to laboratory animal research, including funding and training of young investigators.

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