Research / Cures / Treatments

The examples below provides a short list of life changing treatments and cures that depended directly on basic research and testing with animal models. The discoveries and treatments listed offer only a tiny glimpse into the extensive progress made in combating disease in people and animals. New biomedical discoveries are made daily that pave the way for critical research breakthroughs that will continue to benefit us and all of our loved ones, including our pets. Research animals are heroes who have allowed us to enjoy longer and healthier lives together. We are grateful to them and honor them for their contributions to humankind and animalkind.




Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. It can affect one joint or multiple joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis.

A chimeric protein containing portions of human and mouse antibodies was developed in the 1990s to treat Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This antibody shrank tumors in monkey models and was developed into a marketable drug called Rituximab following preclinical trials in animals and clinical trials in people demonstrating that it was safe for use. 

In 2009, Rituximab was shown to slow the progression of early stage rheumatoid arthritis (RA) when combined with methotrexate.This treatment has since been used successfully to treat advanced rheumatoid arthritis, and has also been valuable in anti-rejection drug regimens provided to patients with kidney transplants.

Studies of arthritic horses have led to the development of rapidly dissolving drops that can be given at the time of injury to prevent or reverse joint damage in these animals, in addition to the engineering of a microscope that can be inserted into joints to assess trauma and observe cartilage on the cellular level.


Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities that become serious enough to interfere with daily life.

Flies and mice have been genetically engineered to help researchers track and understand the functions of proteins, like beta-amyloid, believed to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). 

Nerve cells derived from human skin cells are manipulated in Petri dishes to mimic various types of dementia and then used to screen for potential new drugs to treat AD. These in vitro techniques were developed through research with mice.  

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates information sharing between brain cells. It was first discovered in the early 1900s and its function in the body was determined later from research with frogs and horses. Cholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, regulating its levels in healthy brains. Cholinesterase inhibitors were developed to prevent the normal degradation of acetylcholine in the brains of AD patients, to improve memory and slow the progression of this deadly disease.

Eight of the twenty most common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have successfully lowered beta-amyloid levels in mice, using doses achievable in humans.

Liraglutide, a drug currently used to treat diabetes, was shown to boost the production of new brain cells in mice with signs of AD. Clinical trials are underway to determine this drug’s value for treating people with AD. If it proves useful for this purpose, it can be prescribed immediately since it is already approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Research into the effects of alcohol on insulin resistance in the brains of rats led researchers to note that the loss of insulin receptors in brain cells produced symptoms that were very similar to Alzheimer’s Disease.

The drug known as methylthioninium,
developed in part from research with transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer’s Disease, has been shown to reduce AD progression by over two years. The effectiveness of this drug in people is being evaluated currently in human clinical trials.


Asthma is a breathing disorder characterized by the constriction of the airway and accumulation of mucus.

Studies in guinea pigs and nonhuman primates led to the development of leukotriene receptor antagonists that relieve the symptoms of asthma. This class of drugs was approved by the FDA to treat mild and severe forms of asthma in the late 1990s.

Blindness (Corneal Disease) 

The cornea is the clear, protective layer of the eye. Damage to the cornea from disease or injury can cause blindness by preventing light from entering the eye properly.  

Pig corneas have been used to restore vision in people since the 2010s. 

In the interview below, Wu Pinggui discusses his pig cornea transplant and how it has improved his vision.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is characterized by uncontrolled cellular division in breast tissue that leads to the formation of tumors.

Sex hormones and their roles in fertility and development were discovered during the 1930s through basic research with animals. Before sex hormones were well characterized, animal studies showed that removing ovaries in mice reduced their likelihood of developing breast cancer. 

Basic research with rats and mice in the 1950s and 1960s revealed a connection between hormonal changes and the induction of breast tumors. This work paved the way for the development of the drug Tamoxifen, which inhibits the growth of hormone dependent breast cancers in high-risk women.

Basic research with rats and mice in the 1980s led to the discovery that certain forms of breast cancer could be treated with antibodies designed to target proteins involved in the development of breast cancer.
Herceptin (trastuzumab) was the first humanized monoclonal antibody used to  treat breast cancer successfully and we have mice to thank for that.


A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye.

Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40 and are the principal cause of blindness in the world.

Studies of a strain of blind mice have highlighted the importance of a DNA-degrading enzyme in maintaining lens transparency that may be helpful for understanding and treating cataracts in people and animals.

Cervical Cancer (HPV)

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can cause certain cancers and diseases in both males and females.

there are 14 million new HPV infections per year in the United States

The cottontail rabbit was the first animal identified with a cancer caused by a papillomavirus. This virus, coined cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV), was discovered in the 1930s and researchers observed that rabbits became immune to reinfection once they overcame an initial infection, leading to the development of a vaccine to prevent the virus and associated cancer in these animals. 

Ensuing studies showed that vaccines against canine (dog) oral papillomavirus, and bovine (cow) papillomavirus (BPV) also provided protection against papillomaviruses and that such vaccines against these viruses could likely be developed in prevent the cancers associated with HPV in people.

There are now vaccines available to protect people from a HPV-16 and HPV-18: Gardasil and Cervarix.


Diabetes is characterized by higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood (“high blood sugar”), which can lead to additional health problems like heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease.

Over 29 million people in the US have diabetes.

In 1889 researchers demonstrated that the removal of the pancreas caused diabetes in dogs. 

In 1921 researchers saved a dying dog with diabetes by giving him insulin.

Methods for purifying insulin for human patients was developed in rabbits.

Doctors began treating diabetic patients with insulin extracts in 1922.


Ebola is a rare and deadly hemorrhagic disease caused by infection with one of four species of the Ebola virus that affects people and nonhuman primates.

Several promising vaccine candidates have been developed that protect Macaque monkeys against Ebola infection. A study done in 2016 showed the VSV-EBOV vaccine to be 70–100% effective against the Ebola virus, making it the first proven vaccine against this deadly disease.


Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by seizures or periods of unusual behavior and sensations, and sometimes loss of consciousness.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the US, affecting about 1 in 26 Americans.

Scientists have used gene therapy to cure epilepsy in rats. It is the first time this technique has been used to treat epilepsy successfully and could, in the future, provide an alternative to surgical or other medical treatments.


Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve.

Approximately 3 million Americans have glaucoma. It is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Surgical treatment for glaucoma has been improved through studies with rabbits, increasing the potential success rate of these procedures from 30% to 80%. 

Researchers reversed the symptoms of glaucoma in rats using medicated eye drops in 2009. Further tests on a small number of human patients also showed promising results.

Hearing Loss (Deafness)

Deafness is generally caused by damage to the inner ear or nerves involved with hearing. It may be caused by a congenital defect, injury, disease, certain medications, exposure to loud noise, or age-related wear and tear.

Basic research with guinea pigs in the 1950s and 1960s improved our understanding of how the inner ear supports hearing. 

Studies with zebrafish revealed that these animals are capable of repairing ear cells after damage.

In 2003 gene therapy was used to generate new sound-detecting hair cells in the inner ears of guinea pigs, leading to a complete recovery in hearing.

In another study with guinia pigs in 2013, gene therapy was shown to be effective for the repair of damaged hair cells within a specified timeframe

Gene therapy will soon be tested in clinical trials as a strategy for restoring hearing in people.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is usually caused by the build up of plaque in blood vessels feeding the heart that can cause damage to the heart muscle, leading to “heart attacks”.

Biomedical research with cats in the 1930s aided in the development of an external device that could replace the function of the heart and lungs for short intervals, now known as the heart-lung machine (Link to

Later research in the 1940s involving dogs and rabbits demonstrated that the heart could be stopped during surgery for approximately 15 minutes, and then started again without harmful consequences.

The first cardiac pacemaker was developed in 1941. The heart could be restarted artificially, using mechanical or electrical stimulation to make it beat. This research paved the way for the development of the first cardiac defibrillation machine, which was used to start a dog’s heart in 1949.

Continued research with dogs led to the development of cardiac pacemakers for people.

Open heart surgery techniques were also perfected in dogs.
Since 1960 hundreds of thousands of pig and cow heart valves have been placed in humans, extending their lives.  

Heart transplant surgery was performed successfully in dogs in 1961 and then in humans by 1967.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a bloodborne pathogen that damages the liver.  Chronic infection increases the risk for developing liver cancer.

A HBV vaccine was developed using blood from infected people in 1976. The vaccine was tested in chimpanzees, where it was shown to provide safe and effective protection against the virus.

High Blood Pressure  (Hypertension)

High blood pressure is a common condition that increases the likelihood of developing heart disease.

Research with Brazilian pit viper venom in the 1980s led to the design of ACE inhibitors, a new class of drugs designed to lower blood pressure. Once the efficacy and safety of ACE inhibitors were proven in preclinical tests with rats and dogs, they were tested in people. ACE inhibitors currently help millions of people worldwide control their blood pressure.


HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus compromised the immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection.

Lentiviruses cause slowly progressing disease in most mammalian species. Those infecting horses, cattle and sheep were described in the early 20th century, while a lentivirus infecting cats was described during the 1960s. 

Following the discovery of HIV, a related monkey lentivirus called SIV was identified, making monkeys promising models for understanding and treating HIV and AIDS. These studies informed the strategy for using antiretroviral medications to slow or halt the progression of disease in HIV patients.

Additional biomedical research with mice and monkeys led to the development of the first antiretroviral drug, AZT, which moved to clinical trials in 1986. Several drug cocktails have been developed to treat HIV since then and millions of people who would have died from AIDS forty years ago are now living long, healthy lives with HIV.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is characterized by chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract. IBD includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both usually involve severe diarrhea, pain, fatigue and weight loss. IBD can be debilitating and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications.


Studies with spider venom led to the discovery of a protein that may be vital for to relieving the pain experienced by patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).


Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs that occurs most often in the late fall, winter, and early spring.

Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000-49,000 deaths occur from influenza-related complications.

Influenza infects ferrets naturally and they experience signs that are very similar to humans with respect to diagnosis, pathology and immunity. 

Research with ferrets highlighted the intense
virulence of the H1N1 virus, relative to other forms of the virus.

Ferrets have also been invaluable models for testing the safety of recombinant inactivated viruses for vaccine development.

Research with sheep has been critical for establishing effective vaccination doses.

Traditional influenza vaccines are produced by amplifying the virus in fertilized chicken eggs and then chemically inactivating it to promote natural immunity to the virus in people without causing illness.


Leukemia refers to a group of cancers that affect white blood cells.White blood cells fight infection in healthy people, but lose their functionality and multiply uncontrollably in the bone marrow of people suffering from leukemia.

Leukemia is the most common cancer affecting children, accounting for close to a third of childhood cancers.

In the early 1970s, research with mice revealed that malignant cells must be destroyed completely and in the early stages of disease to increase the likelihood of surviving cancers of any kind. This continues to be a guiding principle for cancer treatment strategies today. 

Work with genetically modified mice is currently defining the role of cancer-causing genes in leukemia that will, hopefully, lead to new treatment strategies for children suffering from this disease.

Researchers are developing methods for making bone marrow transplants safer and more effective in people by modifying mouse immune systems with human cells and evaluating the effectiveness of transplants for curing disease in these “humanized” animals.

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina in the back of the eye, the macula, which is responsible for recording images seen and communicating them to the brain via the optic nerve. The macula allows us to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.

Macular Degeneration affects more than 10 million people and is the leading cause of blindness in the US.

Macular relocation is a surgical procedure for correcting macular degeneration that was developed in rabbits, cats and monkeys over the past fifty years. 

Macular degeneration is, generally, caused by blood leaking from vessels that develop below the retina. This appearance of these vessels is referred to as choroidal neovascularization and a relatively new cancer drug, combretastatin (CA4P), has been found to prevent and treat this condition in mice. Clinical trials in people are in the planning stage.
In 2002 researchers discovered two genetic mutations in dogs that have informed additional studies related to inherited blindness in humans and canines.



Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by either bacterial or viral infection and may be life threatening.

Vaccination against Haemophilus Influenzae Type B virus (Hib) has decreased the incidence of meningitis and pneumonia in countries that vaccinate against this virus routinely.

The Hib vaccine was developed in the 1980s from research with mice and rabbits.

Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy (MD) refers to a group of hereditary muscle diseases characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue that leads to muscle wasting and fatality in early adulthood.

Some mice and certain breeds of dogs develop naturally occurring muscle diseases. These animals have allowed researchers to understand how and why these diseases disrupt normal muscular function, allowing them to develop and test treatments for people and animals suffering from muscle diseases.


Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads easily between people and invades the brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis and probable death in those infected.

Forty years of research with mice, rats, and monkeys led to the introduction of the polio vaccine to prevent disease in people in the 1950s. 

Today, polio is virtually eradicated in the United States and Europe and instances of polio have decreased significantly in developing countries.


Smallpox is caused by the Variola virus and is a highly contagious, life-threatening infection marked by a rash of round blisters or “pox” on the face, arms and legs.

The first smallpox vaccine was generated from the cowpox virus in 1796. 

The last recorded case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949. Smallpox was eradicated through vaccinations by 1977. It is currently the only disease to have been completely eliminated by global immunization strategies.

Spinal Cord Injury 

A spinal cord injuries can cause permanent changes in strength, sensation and other bodily functions below the site of the injury.

Decades of basic research in rats, mice, pigs, and monkeys led to the first clinical trials of a Schwann cell transplant in 2012 to restore movement in patients with spinal cord injuries. 

In 2016 brain implants were developed from previous studies in rhesus monkeys that allowed researchers to bypass spinal injuries in people, allowing the brain to control the movement of previously paralyzed limbs directly, for the first time in history.

Another proof of concept study in 2016 demonstrated that the introduction of immature human neurons into mice with spinal cord injuries improved bladder control in these animals, another important step toward developing treatment strategies for spinal cord injury in humans.


Rubella is a viral disease that can cause miscarriage or serious birth defects in babies carried by infected women.

Research with monkeys led to the understanding of the pathogenesis of rubella, as well as the development of vaccine to protect against it. 

In 2015, the Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization announced that the Americas region is the first in the world to eliminate Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). (Link to )


Tetanus is caused by infection with Clostridium tetani, a bacterium that produces toxins that cause lockjaw, stiffness, and problems swallowing. Advanced symptoms include severe muscle spasms, seizure-like activity, and severe nervous system disorders.

Research with rabbits and other animals throughout the 19th century informed the development of the first inactive tetanus vaccine in 1924. 

DTP, the vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, was approved for use in humans in 1930 and the incidence of tetanus has declined substantially over since then.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs that can be spread through the air when a person speaks, coughs or sneezes. It is the second most fatal disease worldwide that is caused by a single infectious agent.  

The pathogenesis of tuberculosis was
revealed in studies with cows and sheep in the late 1800s.Studies with guinea pigs in the 1940s revealed the effectiveness of streptomycin for treating TB.


Zika is a virus spread by infected Aedes spp. mosquitos that can be pass to the fetus in pregnant woman and cause serious birth defects.

Zika virus transmission has been reported in the continental US.

There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine or treatment for the disease caused by Zika virus. A single-dose vaccine against Zika infection has produced effective immune responses in mice and monkeys and several vaccines to prevent Zika infection are currently under development.