Public Release: 

Review articles put animal models under closer scrutiny

Humane Society International

A new review article supported by a grant offered by Humane Society International has been published in the journal PLOS Pathology. The article was written by a group of researchers in Portugal led by Margarida Saraiva at the i3S - Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde at University of Porto and at the IBMC - Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, also at Porto University and presents a critical review on the use of animal models to study Tuberculosis.

The review article entitled "Experimental study of tuberculosis: From animal models to complex cell systems and organoids" (available at describes the many limitations of animal models currently used to study Tuberculosis, including non-human primates, rabbits, guinea pigs, mouse, and zebrafish. The study also highlights that major anatomical differences in these models, if compared to humans, poor clinical outcome predictions and difficulties to establish infection (most of these models are not naturally infected by the tuberculosis-causing pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis) puts in question the usefulness of animal models to study tuberculosis, a disease that kills over 1.8 million people every year and for which better experimental models are urgently needed. As a sound alternative, the study suggests the advance and implementation of in vitro human 3D lung tissue models to study M. tuberculosis infection.

Review articles supported by the organization critically evaluate the animal models currently used to study human diseases and offer concrete recommendations on how to advance and optimize the development and application of human-specific tools and approaches such as iPSC, organoids, bioengineering models, computational systems biology modeling, among others. Since 2014, a number of review articles have been published with the support of HSI. These articles consist of critical reviews in disease areas such as Autism, Autoimmune disorders, Cholestatic liver diseases, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Enfermedad de Alzheimer, and Asthma.

Earlier this year, HSI has announced that five research groups in North America and Europe have been awarded with the HSI grant to author new review articles in four human disease areas (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, flavivirus/Zika infection, and non-alcoholic liver steatosis). The review articles are expected to be published in open-access journals sometime next year.

"The idea that a given complex living organism can be used as a model for studying human biology and human diseases has generated great controversy in the last years. Our goal with this grant is to support authors interested in reviewing the literature in a given disease area to produce a new text that exposes the many scientific reasons why animal models can't help us better understand human diseases. We also want to contribute with fresh in-depth literature that calls attention on the urgent need to replace animal models for human-based research alternatives that are safer, cost-effective, more efficient, and ethically sound", says Marcia Triunfol, scientific advisor for HSI in Brazil.


Currently, the organization has a Request for Proposals (RFP) for five countries in Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, and Argentina). The deadline for the RFP for Latin America countries is November 30th. Additional information on this RFP can be found at

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