What is basic research?
By definition, basic research is about the increase of knowledge and the quest for understanding. Applicable results are not the first goal. Its purpose is therefore not the cure and treatment of diseases, but research itself. This purposeless curiosity-driven research has accounted for about half of all animal experiments conducted in Germany in recent years.
In order to obscure this inherent purpose from the public eye, the healing of sick people is often held out as a prospect. The research results are said to help people at some point in the distant future. But such claims can easily be made up because no one ever controls them.
What is an "animal model"?
In so-called "animal models", efforts are made to induce specific symptoms of human diseases into different types of animals. Many animal experiments have the sole aim of developing such an "animal model".
A stroke is induced in mice by obstructing a cerebral artery with a thread. The tissue area behind the blocked blood vessel is no longer supplied with blood. But what relevance does this hold to the actual situation in humans? None. In humans, a stroke develops over years. Causes - as we know from clinical research - include smoking, stress, alcohol, lack of exercise, and obesity, all of which can’t be replicated in an “animal model”.
"Animal models" are developed for every conceivable disease. Cancer and Alzheimer's are triggered in mice through genetic manipulation. In monkeys, a neurotoxin is injected into the brain to simulate Parkinson's disease. Even mental disorders are attempted to be replicated in animals. Depression is simulated through electric shocks that the animal cannot escape from or through the "despair test," where the animal must swim until complete exhaustion.
Subsequently, attempts are made to alleviate the artificially induced symptoms in unnaturally sick animals. But since already the first step, i.e. the "animal model", cannot be compared to the human disease, the second step, i.e. the development of treatment methods, cannot work either. Knowing this, it doesn’t come as a surprise that over 500 stroke medications and 300 Alzheimer’s drugs have been successful in mice but not in humans.
In many instances, basic research is not even driven by the alleged understanding of human diseases, but solely by scientific curiosity itself. Do we truly need to comprehend how a jet lag affects mice? Is there any reason why we should identify the specific nerves in the brain that become active when manipulating, squeezing, or cutting the whiskers of rats? What is the purpose of knowing that hibernation protects hamsters from Alzheimer's or how long naked mole rats can go without oxygen?
Naked mole-rats are small rodents capable of surviving on limited oxygen due to their subterranean lifestyle. Depending on their body temperature, they can survive without oxygen for 6 to 18 minutes. Do we need such findings? Do they have any purpose for human welfare?
Why do researchers do this?
Such animal experiments do not benefit sick humans. They serve the self-interest of individual experimenters who seek to satisfy their curiosity and build their careers. Animal experiments are seen as prestigious and necessary in academia. They are a prerequisite to placing publications in renowned journals. And only those who can present an extensive list of scientific papers can establish their presence in the world of science and secure research funding. Every article raises new questions and thus leads to further animal experiments. Whether anything meaningful emerges for sick people is irrelevant.
There is nothing to be said against curiosity as a driving force for gaining knowledge - as long as no living creatures are harmed in the process. Animal experiments in basic research - and elsewhere - are cruel, unethical, and absurd. They must be banned immediately!
26 January 2021
Dr Corina Gericke D.V.M.