Posted by Dr Katy Taylor on 14th November 2016
Cruelty is not the key to tackling diabetes epidemic
Did you know that today is World Diabetes Day?
Animals have been used in diabetes research for over a century and yet the number of people with the disease has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. It is now one of the most common public health problems in the world.2
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, human research shows that just a few simple steps such as eating more healthily, exercising more and losing extra weight can help prevent up to 70% of cases, which is equivalent to 160 million cases by 2040.1
Current research involves inducing diabetes in animals such as mice, rats, rabbits, cats, dogs, sheep and monkeys. Animals are often injected with toxic chemicals to damage the insulin-producing cells in their pancreas, or their pancreas is surgically removed. This is extremely crude and does not reflect the situation in humans where the disease develops over a long period of time and is caused by insulin resistance.
Animals are also often forced to consume a high fat ‘Western-style diet’ in order to induce obesity and diabetes. These experiments are highly unreliable as the percentage of animals who actually progress to full-on diabetes is small. Even the animals who do develop diabetes do not develop the complications associated with the disease in humans.
The use of genetically modified mice to target genes associated with diabetes has also become ‘more common. However, the disease that is created in GM mice is different to diabetes in humans and to rely on these experiments is potentially dangerous.
Despite the ongoing use of animals in cruel experiments, there is still no cure for diabetes. However, insulin therapy can be used to control symptoms by keeping blood sugar levels stable.
It is often stated that experiments on dogs were crucial to the discovery of insulin and this ‘fact’ is used a justification for all future animal experiments. But like other medical breakthrough stories, the important clues actually came from clinical investigation of patients and autopsy reports. Humane in vitro studies were then used to isolate insulin, not animal experiments.3
- International Diabetes Federation: http://www.idf.org/wdd-index/wdd2016.html
- World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/
- M. Bliss. The Discovery of Insulin. University of Toronto Press, 2000.