The importance of animal models in biomedical research

An animal model is a living, non-human species that imitates various facets of the biological processes found in humans. Rat and mouse animal models are essential in biomedical research in several contexts, including diabetes, cancer, drug assessments, and systemic autoimmune diseases. Mammalian and non-mammalian animals like hamsters, rabbits, flies, fish, and guinea pigs have proved their outstanding importance and resemblance to study anatomical and physiological functions of humans. This article summarizes the importance of animal models in biomedical research (1).

Animal models and orthopedic research

The major bone pathologies in humans include osteomyelitis, osteosarcoma, and osteoporosis. The bone is also one of the most common sites of cancer metastasis. Animal models of skeletal metastases are necessary to provide a deeper understanding of the molecular pathways underlining cancer metastases and to develop new therapies (2,3).

Animal models and drug development

During drug development, animal models are useful to perform preclinical studies before starting clinical trials. General toxicity, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, and mutagenicity tests are performed in animal models to assess basic pharmacokinetic parameters, such as drug efficiency and safety. In vivo preclinical studies are mostly conducted in mice, rats, and rabbits after having shown a desirable efficacy of the drug during in vitro experiments (4). Once a drug has been proven to be safe in preclinical trials on animals, it is administered to small groups of human volunteers. Since rodents have biological properties similar to humans and are easy to handle, they are most frequently used in preclinical trials. However, under the new regulation, it is mandatory to conduct drug development trials on non-rodents, such as dogs, cats, or primates, simultaneously with rodents (5).

Animal models and diabetic foot ulcers

Diabetic foot ulcers result from poor glycemic control, poor foot care, and peripheral vascular disease. It is one of the most common complications in patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) (6). Type 2 diabetes-associated foot ulcers have also caused severe socioeconomic problems for patients and the healthcare system worldwide. To develop a wound-healing model, Mendes and team optimized a chemically-induced diabetic Wistar rat animal model. This model can be used to investigate the efficacy and toxicity of topical antimicrobial therapy (TAT). Wistar rat experiments are also reproducible and practical for studies with large sample sizes (7).


1. Barré-Sinoussi F, Montagutelli X. Animal models are essential to biological research: issues and perspectives. Future Sci OA. 2015 Nov 1;1(4):FSO63. doi: 10.4155/fso.15.63. PMID: 28031915; PMCID: PMC5137861.

2. Haffner-Luntzer M, Ignatius A. Animal models for studying metaphyseal bone fracture healing. Eur Cell Mater. 2020 Oct 29;40:172-188. doi: 10.22203/eCM.v040a11. PMID: 33119886.

3. Mukherjee, P., Roy, S., Ghosh, D. et al. Role of animal models in biomedical research: a review. Lab Anim Res 38, 18 (2022).

4. Van Dam D, De Deyn PP. Animal models in the drug discovery pipeline for Alzheimer’s disease. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Oct;164(4):1285-300. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01299.x. PMID: 21371009; PMCID: PMC3229762.

5. Fox JG, Barthold SW, Davisson MT, Newcomer CE, Quimby FW, Smith AL. The mouse in biomedical research. Elsevier Inc.; 2007.

6. Sriyani KA, Wasalathanthri S, Hettiarachchi P, Prathapan S. Predictors of diabetic foot and leg ulcers in a developing country with a rapid increase in the prevalence of diabetes mellitus. PLoS One. 2013 Nov 6;8(11):e80856. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080856. PMID: 24223231; PMCID: PMC3819292.

7. Mendes JJ, Leandro CI, Bonaparte DP, Pinto AL. A rat model of diabetic wound infection for the evaluation of topical antimicrobial therapies. Comp Med. 2012 Feb;62(1):37-48. PMID: 22330650; PMCID: PMC3276391.