Questions About Biomedical Research

Questions About Biomedical Research

What is biomedical research?

Biomedical research is an approach used towards solving medical problems. It deals with beliefs or theories which can be proven or disproven through observations and experimentation. Before humans can be asked to participate in testing, researchers must first use animals whose living systems best represent that of humans. Almost every major medical advance in this century has been dependent on animal research and it remains critical to unlocking the cure to many diseases which still claim the lives of millions.

What is the scientific method/research process?

Science generally starts with an unanswered question or problem in the mind of the researcher. All important information is collected and studied, and possible solutions to the problem are proposed that help direct the researcher to the facts. Experiments are usually set up that will either support or disprove the theory (hypothesis). The data is then collected and organized, and the results interpreted. A confirmation or rejection of the hypothesis provides answers which may begin the process all over again.

What are the different types of research?

Basic Research is undertaken to increase knowledge about the basic processes of living organisms. Animal models are often used to observe and evaluate those life processes. This type of research provides the foundation upon which other types of research are built.

Clinical Research focuses on using humans and is based on basic research results.

Product Safety Research involves in vitro (an artificial environment), in vivo (within a living organism), and human testing using the exact chemical substance or compound that is intended for or actually exists in a product that will be sold to and used by humans or animals.

Why are animals used in biomedical research?

Animals are used in biomedical research as biological models instead of using humans. Researchers use animal models because they help answer questions that could not be answered with the technology and methods that currently exist. Many animals have numerous anatomical, cellular, physiological, and biochemical similarities with humans which help us understand human diseases and how the human body works. The use of animals allows for testing various forms of treatment for illnesses and conditions found in both humans and animals.

What research has been dependent on animals?

  • Kidney, liver, heart, pancreas, and lung transplants developed using dogs, sheep, cows, and pigs.
  • Study of vitamin B deficiency, which causes heart and nerve impairment, using chickens.
  • Leprosy research using monkeys and armadillos.
  • Vaccines developed for polio, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, and plague.
  • Research on the communicative abilities of primates has led to strategies for teaching language to mentally retarded children.
  • Medical innovations including: artificial hearts, artificial limbs, CT scan, monoclonal antibodies, ultrasound, and x-rays.
  • Development of gene therapy/replacement which has a wide potential for future treatment for genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis.

Are there alternatives to using animals?

There are no real alternatives to animal research but science has over the course of time developed a number of non-animal research models, including: cell and tissue cultures, biochemical tests, and computer simulations. These methods however cannot mirror the complex processes that occur in the living animal so eventually animal models must be used before the research can be tried on humans.

Science Process Terms

Many of the following skills are used in solving medical problems.


To collect data through use of the five senses.


To recognize similarities and differences between objects, events, and places.


To name objects, events, and places.


To arrange or organize based on observed similarities.


To find the dimensions, quantity, or capacity of something.


To state a future occurrence based on previous observations.


To check or test the accuracy of a prediction.


To form a hypothesis (a possible explanation to a problem, a theory).


To plan and conduct tests to support or disprove a hypothesis.

Fast Facts

  • Between 10 and 17 million dogs and cats are euthanized in pounds and shelters annually.
  • Approximately 1.1% of dogs and cats that would otherwise be put to death in pounds and shelters are used in research.
  • Rats, mice, and other rodents comprise 85–95% of all research animals.
  • Primates make up about 1/3 of 1% of animals used in the US for research.
  • The majority of animals used in research are bred specifically for that purpose by USDA licensed suppliers.
  • The number of animal models used for biomedical research annually has declined 40% since 1968
  • n estimated 17 to 22 million vertebrate animals are used each year in research — less than 1% of the number killed for food.
  • Humans now live an additional 20.8 years because of biomedical research.

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