Health timeline

Our timeline displays the animal research behind the world's major medical advances. Click on a decade below for more information.

Malaria parasite lifecycle

Pre 20th century, cattle, birds

At the end of the 19th century, malaria was believed to be contracted through inhalation of dirty water. Several biologists, Manson, Koch, King1 and Lavern2, separately developed the theory that malaria may be caused by mosquito bites.

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Vaccine for smallpox

Pre 20th century, cattle

The first vaccine was famously developed by the physician Edward Jenner in 1796. He had noticed that milk-maids had unusually smooth skin, and realised that they were not scarred by smallpox scars.

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Vaccine for anthrax

Pre 20th century, sheep

Anthrax is an infectious disease due to a type of bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. Infection in humans most often involves the skin, gastrointestinal tract, or lungs.

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Early anaesthetics

Pre 20th century, cats, rabbits, dogs

Fifty years before an anaesthetic was used in patients, Humphrey Davy had demonstrated2 that nitrous oxide produced a reversible state of unconsciousness in animals. He subsequently inhaled the gas himself, noting on one occasion that the gas relieved toothache.

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Rabies vaccine

Pre 20th century, rabbits, dogs

Rabies is a very serious viral infection that targets the brain and nervous system. It is spread by animals to humans. Once the symptoms of rabies have developed, the condition is almost always fatal.

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Typhoid vaccine

Pre 20th century, mice, rats

Typhoid, sometimes known as enteric fever, is a disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi. Classic typhoid fever is a serious disease. It can be life-threatening unless treated promptly with antibiotics. The disease lasts several weeks and convalescence takes some time.

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Cholera vaccine

Pre 20th century, mice, rats

Experiments on cholera immuno-serum in guinea-pigs showed that unlike previous sera, it did not affect bacterial toxins, but provided immunity by preventing the bacteria from moving and growing. This was termed bacteriolytic immunity. As with anti-toxic immunity, animals could gain immunity through injection with the blood of an immunised animal.

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Plague vaccine

Pre 20th century, mice, rats

Plague is an acute bacterial infection caused by the organism Yersinia pestis. Natural infection occurs in a range of mammalian species including rodents, cats and other carnivores, and humans

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Treatment for beriberi

Pre 20th century, chickens

In 1912 Gowland Hopkins showed that beriberi could be caused by lack of nutrients in the diet. He investigated the nutritional needs of rats and mice, feeding young rats on casein, lard, sucrose, starch and minerals. Half the group also received 2ml of milk daily. Those receiving the milk grew well.

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Treatment for rickets

1900s, dogs

Rickets is a condition that affects bone development in children. It causes the bones to become soft and malformed, which can lead to bone deformities.

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Corneal transplants

1900s, rabbits

A cornea transplant is an operation used to remove all or part of a damaged cornea and replace it with healthy cornea tissue from the eye of a suitable donor.

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Local anaesthetics

1900s, rabbits, dogs

At about the same time that nitrous oxide in cylinders replaced the use of chloroform, Koller13 demonstrated that cocaine applied to the eye of a rabbit could induce loss of sensation, thus paving the way for use of cocaine as a local anaesthetic in eye surgery.

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Discovery of vitamin C

1900s, guinea pigs

Axel Holst and Theodor Frølich, two Norwegian physicians studying shipboard beriberi in the Norwegian fishing fleet, wanted a small test mammal to substitute for the pigeons then used in beriberi research. They fed guinea pigs their test diet of grains and flour, which had earlier produced beriberi in their pigeons, and were surprised when classic scurvy resulted instead.

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Blood transfusions

1910s, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits

Blood transfusion has saved the lives of countless people and animals. The technique was developed when treated blood was shown to be safe for transfusion in dogs in 1914.

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Insulin

1920s, dogs, rabbits, mice

Surgeon Frederick Banting and graduate student Charles Best found that injections of pancreatic cell extracts relieved diabetic symptoms in dogs. The extracts contained insulin, which was then purified using a technique developed in rabbits.

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Canine distemper vaccine

1920s, dogs

Canine distemper virus is a highly infectious viral disease of dogs which can cause mild signs in some individuals, but may be fatal in others.

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Modern anaesthetics

1930s, rats, rabbits, dogs, cats, monkeys

The most widely used modern intravenous anaesthetic is thiopentone sodium. Effective doses of this barbiturate were established by researchers at the University of Wisconsin12, working with rats, rabbits and dogs.

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Tetanus vaccine

1930s, horses, guinea pigs

Tetanus vaccine allows your body to create antibodies against the tetanus toxin (tetanospasmin). This protects you from the illness if you are exposed to the Clostridium tetani bacterium in the future.

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Diphtheria vaccine

1930s, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, monkeys

In 1888 Pierre Roux and Alexandre Yersin1 showed that the liquid in which the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae had been grown caused diphtheria, by injecting it into guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats and horses.

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Anticoagulants

1930s, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, dogs

Blood clotting (coagulation) disturbs blood flow, and is essential to stop bleeding after a cut. But clotting in the wrong place can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attacks and strokes. Anticoagulants are used to prevent or treat these.

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Penicillin and streptomycin

1940s, mice

Florey and Chain first tested the effects of penicillin in mice in 1940. By 1941, penicillin was being used to treat dying soldiers. This research won the Nobel Prize in 1945.

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Discovery of rhesus factor

1940s, monkeys

Rhesus disease - also known as haemolytic disease of the foetus and newborn - is a condition where antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood destroy her baby's blood cells.

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Kidney dialysis

1940s, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, monkeys

The first practical demonstration of this process, known as continuous dialysis of blood was by John Abel1 in 1914, using anaesthetised rabbits and dogs and dialysis membranes made from treated parchment.

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Whooping cough vaccine

1940s, mice, rabbits

In 1931, before vaccination, a standard textbook of bacteriology stated that whooping cough "may be looked upon as one of the major causes of death in civilised countries". At this time it was responsible for 1.3% of all deaths in England and Wales.1

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Heart-lung machine for open heart surgery

1940s, dogs

Cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) is a technique that temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery, maintaining the circulation of blood and the oxygen content of the body.

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Polio vaccine

1950s, mice, monkeys

In 1908, Dr Karl Landsteiner and Dr Erwin Popper used extracts from the spinal cord of a boy who had died from polio to replicate the disease in monkeys.

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Hip replacement surgery

1950s, dogs, sheep, goats

A hip replacement is a common type of surgery where a damaged hip joint is replaced with an artificial one (known as prosthesis).

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Kidney transplants

1950s, dogs

Research using animals has been involved in developing the techniques of kidney transplants, which give patients freedom from dialysis, allowing them to lead a normal life.

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Cardiac pacemakers

1950s, dogs

Wilson Greatbatch, an American electrical engineer, invented the first implantable cardiac pacemaker, in 1958. He also invented pacemaker batteries, which were essential to its function.2

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Medicines for high blood pressure

1950s, rats, mice, dogs

Research into Brazilian pit viper venom produced the first in a new class of medicines to lower blood pressure - angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

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Replacement heart valves

1950s, dogs, calves, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats

From the 1950s onwards there were many attempts to build artificial valves, that mimicked the anatomy of heart valves, from artificial materials. A team at the University of Minnesota1 established the structure of heart valves taken from cattle and human cadavers.

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Chlorpromazine

1950s, rats, rabbits, monkeys

First synthesized on December 11, 1950, chlorpromazine was the first drug developed with specific antipsychotic action.

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Heart transplants

1960s, dogs

The first human-to-human heart transplant in 1967 by Professor Christiaan Barnard in South Africa was big news. Few people knew that the operation was the culmination of more than 60 years of preparatory animal research.

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Coronary bypass surgerys

1960s, dogs

A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is a surgical procedure widely used to treat coronary heart disease. It diverts blood around narrowed or clogged parts of the major arteries (blood vessels), to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart.

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German measles vaccine

1960s, monkeys

Rubella (also known as German measles) is a viral infection that used to be common in children. Rubella is usually a mild infection

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MMR vaccine

1960s, monkeys

MMR is the combined vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Since the vaccine was introduced in 1988, the number of children who develop these conditions has fallen to an all-time low.

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Antidepressants and antipsychotics

1960s, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits

Experiments in both humans and animals (rats, mice and non-human primates) provided the first evidence that changes in the levels of chemical messengers in the brain, 'neurotransmitters', could alter an individual's emotional state.

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CT scanning for improved diagnosis

1970s, pigs

A CT scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of your body.

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Chemotherapy for leukaemia

1970s, mice

Leukaemia is a group of cancers which affect the white blood cells. In the early 1970s, research using mice found that it is vital to destroy all malignant cells in order to get rid of the cancer.

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Inhaled asthma medication

1970s, guinea pigs, rabbits

Asthma is the most common serious childhood illness and still causes about 2,000 deaths a year in the UK. Animal research was used to develop the medicines in the inhalers used by many people, including children, today.

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Migraine medication

1970s, cats, dogs

Migraine is a disorder usually involving headaches, which can be debilitating, and affects around six million people in the UK.

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MRI scanning for improved diagnosis

1980s, rabbits, pigs

US Chemist Paul Lauterbur was present during early analysis of dissected rat tissue by NMR, and felt that it should be possible to study a whole animal in a non-invasive way. Early in the 1970s he generated a two-dimensional image.

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Prenatal corticosteroids improving survival of premature babies

1980s, sheep, rabbits, cattle

In 1870, infant death rates reached their peak, with almost one in four babies dying at birth. This appalling level triggered the first attempts to use incubators to help premature babies.

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Treatment for river blindness

1980s, rodents, cattle

Onchocerca is a parasitic worm that harms 6.5m people in Africa and South America, blinding many of them. The real cause might be the Wolbachia bacteria that live on the worm. Mice infected with extracts from antibiotic-treated worms showed significantly less thickening and haze of the eye's cornea.21

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Life support systems for premature babies

1980s, monkeys

In 1870, infant death rates reached their peak, with almost one in four babies dying at birth. This appalling level triggered the first attempts to use incubators to help premature babies.

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Medicines to control transplant rejection

1980s, mice, rabbits, dogs, monkeys

In 1916 Little and Tyzzer2 also showed that tumours transplanted from one mouse to another of the same strain were not rejected, but mice of a different strain would reject them.

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Medicines to treat viral diseases

1980s, many species

First reported in 1981, AIDS was quickly shown to be a mysterious epidemic which spread with no known cause. Scientists thought a retrovirus could be the infectious agent.

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Treatment for leprosy

1980s, armadillos, monkeys

The core body temperature of the armadillo is low enough to favour the growth of the leprosy-causing bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. Using the armadillo, scientists were able to develop an experimental vaccine against leprosy.

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HIV & AIDS

1990s, mice, monkeys

First reported in 1981, AIDS was quickly shown to be a mysterious epidemic which spread with no known cause. An extensive population study the following year suggested that the epidemic had already spread globally.

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Meningitis vaccines

1990s, mice

Vaccines for several types of meningitis have been developed in mice and have resulted in a huge fall in the disease. Previously many victims died or had amputations or organ damage.

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Better medicines for depression

1990s, rats

Drugs developed to treat depression act by increasing the amount of certain chemicals in our brains. These neurotransmitters communicate between nerve cells. Our brains contain many different neurotransmitters, but the two that are particularly important in depression are serotonin and noradrenaline.

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Medicines for breast and prostate cancer

1990s, mice, rats, dogs

More than 42,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK, making it the most common cancer in women after non-melanoma skin cancer. Animal studies contributed to the development of tamoxifen, one of the most successful treatments.

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Medicines for type 2 diabetes

1990s, mice

Diabetes cannot be cured, but treatment aims to keep your blood glucose level as normal as possible and to control your symptoms to prevent health problems developing later in life.

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New medicines for asthma

1990s, guinea pigs, monkeys

Asthma is the most common serious childhood illness and still causes about 2,000 deaths a year in the UK. Animal research was used to develop the medicines in the inhalers used by many people, including children, today.

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Statins to lower cholesterol

1990s, rabbits

Statins are cholesterol-lowering medicines. They may be used to treat: hypercholesterolaemia, a high level of cholesterol in the blood. Statins may also be used to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

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Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's Disease

2000s, monkeys

The most widely used modern intravenous anaesthetic is thiopentone sodium. Effective doses of this barbiturate were established by researchers at the University of Wisconsin12, working with rats, rabbits and dogs.

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Monoclonal antibodies for cancers

2000s, mice

Tetanus vaccine allows your body to create antibodies against the tetanus toxin (tetanospasmin). This protects you from the illness if you are exposed to the Clostridium tetani bacterium in the future.

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Cervical cancer vaccine

2000s, rabbits, cattle

In 1888 Pierre Roux and Alexandre Yersin1 showed that the liquid in which the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae had been grown caused diphtheria, by injecting it into guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats and horses.

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Clotting agent from milk

2000s, goats

Blood clotting (coagulation) disturbs blood flow, and is essential to stop bleeding after a cut. But clotting in the wrong place can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attacks and strokes. Anticoagulants are used to prevent or treat these.

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Bird flu vaccine

2000s, chickens and ferrets

As of January 2012,  the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed there have been 583 cases of H5N1 in humans. People who have had bird flu are thought to have developed the virus after coming into close or direct contact with infected birds.

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Stem cells for spinal, heart and vision repair

The future, mice, rats

The most widely used modern intravenous anaesthetic is thiopentone sodium. Effective doses of this barbiturate were established by researchers at the University of Wisconsin12, working with rats, rabbits and dogs.

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Oral or inhaled insulin for type 1 diabetes

The future, mice

Tetanus vaccine allows your body to create antibodies against the tetanus toxin (tetanospasmin). This protects you from the illness if you are exposed to the Clostridium tetani bacterium in the future.

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Angiogenesis inhibitors for cancer, blindness

The future, mice

In 1888 Pierre Roux and Alexandre Yersin1 showed that the liquid in which the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae had been grown caused diphtheria, by injecting it into guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats and horses.

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Gene therapy for muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease

The future, mice

Blood clotting (coagulation) disturbs blood flow, and is essential to stop bleeding after a cut. But clotting in the wrong place can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attacks and strokes. Anticoagulants are used to prevent or treat these.

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Alzheimer's vaccine

The future, mice

Immunotherapy targetting beta-amyloid can clear plaque in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Clinical studies have shown promise, but with some severe side effects arising from inflammation.

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Malaria vaccine

The future, mice, monkeys

Three types of vaccine are envisaged: anti-infection vaccines, anti-disease vaccines, and transmission-blocking vaccines.

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