Human health

Medical research has saved and improved the lives of millions of  people. Animals have benefited too. Today's medicines and surgical techniques could not have been discovered without better understanding of disease and the way the body works - the result of basic research programmes in universities, hospitals and research institutes across the world. These insights can then be taken forward by pharmaceutical companies to develop new medicines which doctors and vets use to treat their patients.

Animal research has contributed to many of the medical advances we now take for granted. We have probably all benefited from vaccines and antibiotics to prevent and treat infections, and anaesthetics used in all forms of surgery. Medicines can now overcome serious conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure.

Research in the last few decades has also begun to tackle some of the more difficult medical problems such as heart disease, depression, and newly emerged infections such as COVID-19, HIV, and many cancers.

Science has developed a wide range of experimental techniques which are used in preference to animals. Despite this, many key questions in medical science can probably still only be addressed by studies on animals. These studies offer hope to millions who suffer from serious conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, spinal cord damage and infections like malaria which are rife in tropical regions.

Mainstream medical and scientific organisations and leading scientists all agree that animal research is essential for medical progress.

"Scientific and medical research is a drawn-out process and the contribution of animal research is frequently overlooked by the time successful therapy reaches patients. We live longer and healthier lives than ever before. Whilst there have been remarkable improvements in the human environment, animal research has played a major part in developing improvements in human health. Animal research advanced the treatment of infections, helped with immunisation, improved cancer treatment and has had a major impact on managing heart disease, brain disorders, arthritis and transplantation". Professor Robert Winston

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Look at our timeline and follow the links to see how animal research plays a key role in the development of many of the vaccines and treatments that we have today.

Read information about many diseases and conditions here.

More detailed, evidence-based information about the contribution of animal research to medical and scientific advances is available at See also the case histories in our report Medical Advances and Animal Research.

Please note that none of the information on this site is intended as medical advice. Further information on specific conditions and their treatment can be found at NHS Direct.

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