Why Heart Failure Experiments in Animals Fail

The Physicians Committee

Why Heart Failure Experiments in Animals Fail

There is no doubt that poor heart health is a serious problem in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 5.8 million Americans have heart failure, with nearly 300,000 people dying each year from related complications.

For decades, scientists have mistakenly turned to animals to study heart health. Experimenters induce heart failure and related conditions in dogs, pigs, rats, and other animals to learn more, causing severe pain and distress for months in some experiments while killing animals outright to harvest their hearts in others. Many of the worst offenders have received millions of dollars in taxpayer funding from the National Institutes of Health for these experiments.

In addition to the cruelty inherent to animal heart failure experiments, animals are poor models for the human heart. For example, pacing heart failure experiments in dogs—which artificially increase the heartbeat rate—are inaccurate because the experimentally induced heart failure, unlike heart failure in humans, is reversible.

After decades of fruitless animal experiments, the number of people with poor heart health is rising, making prevention and treatment more important than ever. Epidemiological studies such as the Framingham Study and the Methodist Study have allowed researchers to see the big picture of what causes heart failure, and human clinical trials provide details into specific aspects of the disease.

Universities and research institutions should focus on human-based studies that provide greater insight into heart failure without the use of animals. PCRM is working to end the use of animals in heart experiments.