Heart Attack Experiments in Animals

The Physicians Committee

Beyond Animal Research

By Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
May 2004

Heart Attack Experiments in Animals

Heart attacks are virtually unknown in mice and rats, probably because their natural life spans are just two to three years, their heart physiology is different from that of humans, and, of course, they avoid fast-food restaurants. But, unfortunately, some animal experimenters have nonetheless attempted to artificially induce heart problems in these hapless creatures. Some recent examples:

  • at Central South University in China, a major artery in mice was surgically tied off for 10 minutes to study resulting heart signals
  • at the National Heart and Lung Institute, London, a coronary artery was blocked in mice to assess the effects of implanting bone cells into damaged heart tissue
  • at the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, Cincinnati, mice bred for an inability to process cholesterol were fed a high-fat diet to test a dietary supplement
  • at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, rats had a coronary artery tied off to test the effectiveness of a potential therapeutic drug

These studies appeared between 2003 and 2004. Inducing heart attacks in rodents has been going on for decades. The PubMed online database lists 3,676 such published studies since 1964.

These studies shed no light on prevention—the most cost-effective weapon against heart disease. Nor are they generating solutions. Tragically for both humans and rodents, heart disease remains the biggest killer in developed nations.

Jonathan Balcolmbe, Ph.D., is a PCRM research consultant with background in ethology. He is the author of The Use of Animals in Higher Education, as well as many articles on humane life science education and scientific papers on animal behavior.

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