“Why spend so many resources on animal health when there are people in need?”
This is a question often posed by those outside of scientific research and the animal health industry [Editor: and indeed, by Sarah Palin, of fruit fly research]. The answer is that animal research is essential in order to develop therapeutics and, hence, to save human lives.
Animal models for cancer therapy, for example, are invaluable for testing cancer treatments. The most commonly used model is the SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency disorder) mouse. However, therapies tested in mice don’t always translate well to clinical settings, i.e. humans, which is why a better preclinical model, for cancer treatment testing in particular, is needed.
Earlier this year, Kansas State University researchers Raymond “Bob” Rowland and Deryl Troyer were the first to discover naturally occurring immunodeficient pigs with SCID – a potential new model for cancer testing. Pigs are much closer to humans in physiology and anatomy than mice and may allow more accurate prediction of cancer drug properties drugs. According to Rowland, there is an approximate 90% failure rate in translation of results from mice to humans.
The SCID pig discovery was brought about by animal health research on PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome). The consequent development of immunodeficient pigs led to a collaboration between Rowland and Troyer in order to augment their studies on human cancers. The naturally occurring immunodeficient line of pigs is capable of hosting xenograft human cells and developing human tumors.
It’s notable that, while researching ways to improve animal health, the scientists made important discoveries that can also improve human health. Rowland said, “This is a good example of how we can take animal health research and all of a sudden it has the potential to help cure human cancer.”
While the initial field of study is cancer, these discoveries open many opportunities in both animal and human health, and could also have implications for bone marrow transplants, detecting other drug side effects, and even surgical inventions.
“The potential is a little daunting because it is as if there is no horizon limiting possible ways to utilize this model,” said Troyer.
Read the original article here.