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The issues that surround animal testing in the medical world are a huge topic of debate, especially at the college level. Many pre-med students are required to participate in a lab class, where they have to test on animals. This is also when many students are taught not to view animals as individuals, only test subjects, similar to the desensitization that occurs on factory farms. However, thanks to the work of one college professor, we may see an animal testing alternative that has the potential to spare an untold amount of lives.

A team led by chemistry, biomedical science and electrical engineering professor James Hickman, at the University of Central Florida, has developed technology that mimics standard human muscular function. This allows researchers to monitor muscular function and its response to different treatments without using human or animal subjects.

“We have cured over 200 diseases in rats and mice that hasn’t translated to humans because our physiology is different, a lot of the basic functions you know. A rat can run; a rat can do a maze; a rat can eat things; a rat can excrete things. There is all kinds of things a rat can do that looks like things that we are doing. The problem is the small little modifiers, you know the channels and the receptors in those cells are just a little different than ours,” Hickman said. In other words, rats are not humans, and humans are not rats. There are a wide variety of studies and books that demonstrate the weak link between testing on non-human animals and producing usable results. To scratch the surface, visit Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, research by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and chapters dedicated to the subject in Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation.

It’s high time we put more energy into research like Hickman’s that is more humane and more scientifically accurate!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons