Written by By Staff Writer, Thomas Sylvester, CNN
From capuchin monkeys and guanacos to zebra frogs and red kites, this is the sort of line up of creepy crawlies that you might expect to get in a modern-day zoological park.
There’s also a live batch of tadpoles showing you how a poison snake smells; a frightening, snake-shaped spider; and a scaly monster that looks a little like Freddy Krueger or a live lightning bolt.
Welcome to the variety of cases listed on the web portal for the Cochrane Animal Welfare Biobank , a project led by Queen Mary University in London. The database pulls together and records all scientific experiments of laboratory animals in the world that test treatments, vaccines and medical interventions such as artificial knees and pacemakers.
The database was set up following the release of a 2016 Cochrane review examining the large body of scientific evidence on experiments of lab animals. Among the findings, the report found many of the studies could be had in people if more studies were conducted.
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“If we think of animal studies as a test tube to predict human health, then a lot of people would say we use too many animal studies and that they are inadequate and that we need to do more human-scale experiments,” explained the paper’s lead author, Justin Arena, in a statement.
Understandably, several governments around the world, and groups including the Zoological Society of London, reacted in similar ways. Since the review was published, several countries have introduced regulations around the use of animal research. They include Australia, Austria, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, the UK and the US.
“Ten years ago, animal use studies were the only research done in experiments that were independent of other studies,” said David MacLoughlin, senior lecturer at the School of Zoology at Queen Mary, in a statement. “Over time, the vast majority of research into disease or treatment is now done in collaborative studies where scientists from different disciplines collaborate with each other on a project.”
One contributing factor to the change in the number of studies conducted has been the rise of artificial-intelligence tools that enable researchers to simulate the reactions of animals in the lab.
“These tools that are increasingly available help to allow researchers to build a database of the ways in which animals are behaving in the laboratory, and to explore what the animal’s decision making process is,” said Arena.