• Question: Do you test on animals, if so why, if not would you?

    Asked by IceCreamTacoSushiCat to Kevin, Stephanie on 28 Apr 2016.
    • Photo: Stephanie Moon

      Stephanie Moon answered on 28 Apr 2016:

      Hi IceCreamTacoSushiCat!
      I don’t do tests on animals. But, I do work with other scientists that do. It’s really hard to create a system that represents all of the complexity of an animal. We can test a lot of hypotheses about disease in cell culture dishes (which is what I usually do) but we can’t test all of them. Our tissues and organs are made of a lot of different kinds of cells- for example, our heart is made of mostly heart muscle cells (9 out of 10 cells in the heart is a heart muscle cell), but other types of cells (like the cells that make our veins and arteries) are also there. It’s difficult to grow all of these cells together in a dish in the right combinations to study what happens in a real heart… not to mention all of the proteins and fats and sugars that are outside of the cell (think about how a scar forms when you get a cut– most of the scar is not made of cells, it’s made of proteins and other things that cells secrete called the extracellular matrix). So one reason to do experiments using animals is so that you can see what happens in a complex system where there are lots of cells and other substances that we just don’t have a good way to grow and create in a dish. For many (if not all) diseases, the immune system is also really involved in how the disease works. The immune system is also really complicated and we don’t have a good way to model it in a dish either! So, animal work is important. You should also know that there are rules and regulations to make sure that scientists only do necessary work in animals, and that they have to make sure the animals aren’t in unnecessary pain (otherwise scientists are not allowed to do this type of work).

    • Photo: Kevin Baker

      Kevin Baker answered on 28 Apr 2016:

      I do not typically do experiments on animals, but if we do, we use mice as a model. Mainly I do work on liver cells, not mice.