Animal Models in Translational Research: Rosetta Stone or Stumbling Block?

A review written by Bolker JA in Bioessays, 20 October 2017.

Leading animal models are powerful tools for translational research, but they also present obstacles. Poorly conducted preclinical research in animals is a common cause of translational failure, but even when such research is well-designed and carefully executed, challenges remain. In particular, dominant models may bias research directions, elide essential aspects of human disease, omit important context, or subtly shift research targets.

Recognizing these stumbling blocks can help us find ways to avoid them: employing a wider range of models, incorporating more realistic environmental conditions, better aligning studies between animals and patients, and focusing on human biology and therapeutic goals. Such changes are costly; but insisting it would be impractical or unrealistic to change strategies offers no way out of the current impasse. Rather, we must acknowledge the obstacles as well as the advantages presented by core models, and direct some of our investments in translational research toward getting around them.

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