Animal Studies in Basic Research
Basic research is the term used to describe ‘curiosity-driven’ exploration of the natural and physical sciences. It is the means by which we expand our knowledge per se and discover things that we did not know beforehand. It is the major source of hope for the future… and importantly, >70% of the most important discoveries in medicine that have improved the quality of life for humankind, have come from basic research (from the discovery of antibiotics to the means by which cancer causes cells to proliferate).
With this in mind, scientists at MPI-CBG are not specifically looking for drugs or therapies to treat a disease but instead are posing the question “How do cells form tissues and organs?” If we understand the processes by which tissues and organs arise from the organization of cells, we may be able to grow organs outside the body and better understand diseases that impact the function of organs. Indeed, recently, mini-brains, mini-livers and mini-guts are already able to be grown outside the body with huge potential for biomedical application (not yet for transplantation!).
Already today, some scientific questions can be answered without performing research using laboratory animals, which include, for example, computer-based models, cell cultures or so-called “organoids” (the mini-organs referred to above). However, processes involving multiple organs or complex physiological interactions cannot yet be modelled with these methods. Consequently, these questions can only be investigated in more detail in a living organism. For this reason, laboratory animals are currently indispensable for answering certain key questions in basic research. Numerous similarities between humans and animals in terms of body functions, disease progression and genetic constitution help scientists to better understand the complex principles of biology in health and in disease through the careful and stringent application of animal experiments. To date, widespread diseases such as diabetes or cancer cannot be completely simulated on the computer or with cell cultures.
The results of basic research have the potential to serve as a starting point for more focused translational and clinical research and nay contribute new avenues of intervention to treat diseases and improve quality of life.