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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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The Choice of Animal Model and Reduction


Michael F.W. Festing

Careful choice of the animal model is essential, if research is to be conducted efficiently, by using the minimum number of animals in order to provide the maximum amount of information. Inbred strains of rodents provide an excellent way of controlling and investigating genetic variation in characters of interest and in response to experimental treatments. Outbred stocks, in which genetic and non-genetic factors are inextricably mixed, are much less suitable, because random and uncontrolled genetic variation tends to obscure any treatment responses. In some cases, the use of inbred strains has led to major advances in scientific understanding. The specific example given here is in the understanding of host–parasite relationships but, more generally, inbred strains have been of critical importance in research which has resulted in the award of at least 17 Nobel prizes. And yet, despite the extensive literature on the properties and scientific value of inbred strains, many scientists continue to use outbred stocks in the mistaken belief that the use of such animals will, in some mysterious way, make their research more applicable to humans. There is really no evidence that this is so, and there is much evidence that the use of inbred strains has been highly successful in many disciplines.