Testing On Animals Can Save Lives

Strand of DNA | photo taken from Google

Strand of DNA | photo taken from Google

Jake Marrazzo, Special to The Big Red

Experimenting on dogs for testing of new drugs that could stop muscular dystrophy and other rare diseases is of paramount importance for seeing if medicine and treatment really works. If these dogs are treated well, this will benefit many.

Texas A&M University uses dogs as a testing ground for researching Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or DMD. This rare, genetic disease is progressive and can lead to pediatric patients not walking around the age of 12 and gradually affects the heart and lungs. In some cases, early death of the individual is plausibly imminent.

Without treatment and “aggressive” attentiveness, the patient will die within their teens. With recent studies and new breakthroughs in drugs, they are surviving up to their 30’s and 40’s as claimed by NIH.

Since 2016, PETA, an animals rights organization, has been against the research of dogs by A&M, and this has continued through a recent lawsuit today, according to Star-Telegram. I am living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and a long-time patient advocate.

I have frequently performed in musicals on stage, and am currently coming up on the tenth play I have ever done. Despite my disease, I still do this, and I want to continue.

Testing on dogs is crucial for new innovations in drug development to be released to the public through this way of testing being the primary way, dogs share similarities in DNA code with humans, and how breakthroughs can help thousands living with rare diseases.

Many people do express concern over the fact that these animals are being tested on and that dogs are being bred specifically to have this disease that can lead to the dogs suffering. They argue that there has to be another way. While this is a valid point, Texas A&M itself has said dogs are treated with “utmost” care with vets that are “certified” present.

A frequently asked question is shouldn’t alternatives be used? According to the Animal Research info, it stated that it is very challenging to use non-animal methods to replace animal testing all together because they simply have not been “validated” or even developed yet.

Progress has been made in replacement of animal tests, but none have came close yet. Other medical research can be done like tissues and cells but these are done alongside animal research, so there has not yet been a replacement.

A replacement could be used in the future, however, what we are left with right now is testing on dogs.

The reason why dogs are used is because humans and dogs share “84 percent” of their DNA as stated by Seattle pi education. This is why they are the next best thing for testing and the drugs would very well have the same effects as humans. This is also why it is particularly of interest that it is diseases that affect both dogs and humans.

Dogs and humans share similar diseases such as cancer and Duchenne. Before we release these treatments to the world, we need to make sure they work.

One of these treatments could be a massive innovation and could cure an astronomical number of diseases. This treatment is known as gene editing, and could save the lives of many people.

One brand new breakthrough in gene editing is known as CRISPR. In accordance to a video on the subject by Time Magazine, with CRISPR we can now edit DNA. CRISPR is a human made molecule that can find DNA in diseases.

The molecule can actually snip that section carrying the disease from the genome, and when it will try to repair itself, scientists can repair it with corrected letters. Time reports that in the UT Southwestern Medical Center, there was a successful use of CRISPR to correct a genetic defect in four beagles bred with the disease.  (Image from NIH Director’s Blog).

Animal testing and specifically testing on dogs allowed us to see the potential of gene editing in people living with Duchenne such as myself.

This is a breakthrough and can lead to possible cures of many diseases. These dogs are not treated in harsh ways in these facilities and the research and testing works.

Though PETA states that the treatments that are occuring are harsh, these animals are being used for the purpose of allowing people with Duchenne and other diseases lives to be eventful and like the lives of someone without a genetic disorder.

Gene editing could, in the future, allow me to continue doing the things I love and allow many others to live great lives. If someone close to an individual could be saved by this, they would use it.