Type 2 Diabetes Research Held Back by Animal Models; Human-Based Research Provides a Path Forward

The Physicians Committee
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NEWS RELEASE March 19, 2018
Type 2 Diabetes Research Held Back by Animal Models; Human-Based Research Provides a Path Forward

WASHINGTON--A new report published in Alternatives to Laboratory Animals identifies the limitations of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) animal research and proposes how human-based research can improve translation to human medicine.

With rates of T2DM skyrocketing—422 million were estimated to be living with diabetes in 2014—, predominant research methods are due for reexamination. Researchers have used various animal models to investigate the disease (insulin resistance and pancreatic dysfunction in particular). However, the exact origins of the disease are still not known and treatment options are limited. Data revealing interspecies differences continue to accumulate, strengthening the conclusion that animal research findings cannot answer questions about T2DM as it manifests itself in humans.

Animal methods have proven to be inadequate to impact the course, outcomes, and endemic spread of diabetes. The reason for this is that animal models differ significantly from humans and even other animal models at every level of biology, from molecules to organs to species. Alternatively, in vitro, in vivo, and in silico technologies are promising means that can be better utilized to advance the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of T2DM in humans.

“Human-relevant diabetes research methods are increasingly used rather than animals,” says one of the report authors, John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., “including numerous imaging techniques, biological testing, lifestyle and environmental correlations, epidemiological studies, and basic science methods using genetic methods, stem cells, organ-on-a-chip technologies, human tissue and organ research, and other innovative approaches.”

Novel initiatives and cooperation among different components of the diabetes research community (academic, industry, and government) will be imperative in order to prioritize human-based research.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.

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