Research Animals


Rodents, like mice and rats, are popular models for biomedical research due to their anatomical, physiological and genetic similarities to humans. Some advantages for using rodents include ease of maintenance, their small size, and short life cycles that enable researchers to study the full course of diseases and therapies.

Another plus is that mice and rats offer an abundance of genetic resources.  Mice share almost 95% of their genes with humans. Their genome is well known and able to be manipulated so that models of specific human disease may be studied.

Because of these characteristics, mice continue to play a vital part in the discovery and development of treatments and cures for cancer, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many infectious diseases.

Other rodents needed for research include hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.

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Nonhuman primates have a rich history of contributing to significant medical advances such as the polio vaccine, organ transplantation, blood transfusions, and surgical procedures to treat debilitating neurological symptoms like tremors and stiffness.

Nonhuman primates are currently vital to the quest for treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, Ebola, malaria, and AIDS.

Rhesus macaques are one of the most common species of nonhuman primates needed for biomedical research.  Other species of nonhuman primates important for the advancement of science and medicine include cynomolgus and pigtail macaques, baboons, marmosets, titi monkeys, and lemurs.

Although nonhuman primates make up less than one-half of one percent of animal models in biomedical research today, they continue to be essential to the development of lifesaving cures and treatments.

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Dogs & Cats

Although dogs and cats represent less than 0.5% of all animals needed in research, they remain crucial to studies to alleviate serious conditions that affect both people and animals.

Research with dogs has resulted in the development of insulin to treat diabetes, organ transplantation, heart disease therapies, medical interventions for orthopedic conditions and injuries, and treatments for many diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and muscular disorders.

Cats are a key model for medical advancements in treating heart disease, immunodeficiency, urinary bladder disease, neurological conditions, and visual impairments.

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Farm Animals

Farm animals make up less than 0.5% - less than one half of one percent - of animals in biomedical research. Species include dairy and beef cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, and horses. These animals are needed for a variety of studies including neurological research, development and testing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, reconstructive surgery research, and medical education. The most common farm animals studied are pigs and sheep.

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Aquatic animals such as fish, frogs, squid, sea urchins, and horseshoe crabs have all helped researchers further the understanding of body processes and the effects of drugs, diseases and toxins.

These animals are involved in a wide variety of research areas, including biochemistry, neuroscience, oncology, cell biology, toxicology, genetics, anatomy, evolution, and environmental science.

Zebrafish and African clawed frogs (Xenopus spp.) are the most common aquatic species involved in today’s biomedical research.

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Other Animals

Each animal needed for research provides a model for a unique aspect of a study.  For example, fruit flies share 75% of the genes that cause disease in humans and contribute to studies of human genetics. The anatomy and physiology of rabbits are similar to that of humans.  Rabbits have contributed to the understanding and treatment of many diseases in both people and animals. They are also important for evaluating the safety and efficacy of new medications.

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