Going down the rabbit hole – why are answers to research questions often elusive?

Experimental Animals in Research - Challenges, Choices and Conundrums - a Brief Review

  • Rochelle van Wijk
Keywords: Animal models, Diabetes, Insulin resistance, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity


Accurate and ethical research findings are expected to add value to the body of knowledge of any disease process. Results produced from ethical research may have relevance to the early detection of a disease, or offer insights in understanding the full spectrum of a particular disease.

For decades, various animal models have been used to investigate disease processes, yet answers to our research questions remain elusive. Metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus have similar aetiologies, often sharing clinical manifestations such as insulin resistance and obesity. Both these entities are considered a health crisis today, due to their prevalence, as well as their associated co-morbidities, and as such, are often focuses of research.

In this brief review, these two disease processes were used as examples to highlight the dissimilar structures of both human and animal physiology, and how this may influence the choice of the animal models used. Irrespective of the disease processes being researched, a detailed literature search is necessary in order to understand these animal model choices. These choices can for example affect and impact the research results, as well as cloud the interpretation these results.