Rabbits and Research

The similarity between the physiology of rabbits and humans makes the rabbit a good model for the research of human disease. The following are examples of research in which the use of rabbits has benefited humankind.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

The ability to produce tumours in rabbits makes them useful models to study chemo/immunotherapy as well as immunoprevention of certain cancers.1

Rabbits have been used in the production of antibodies for a broad range of immunological studies.

CHOLESTEROL STUDIES

Rabbits fed a high cholesterol diet develop vascular deposits similar to those in humans. Rabbits have been used to test probucol, a drug that lowers blood cholesterol and retards the development of atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.2

MUSCULAR DISEASE

By injecting rabbits with a toxin found in electric eels, researchers were able to identify Myasthenia Gravis as an autoimmune disease, in which the human immune system attacks receptors on muscles, resulting in fatigue, weakness, and potential death.3

THE EAR AND EYE

Otitis media, an illness in which the middle ear becomes infected, primarily affects infants and children. Scientist study otitits media by genetically altering rabbits to make them susceptible to the disease.4

  • Rabbits serve as models for the study of entropion – in which the eyelashes are turned inward and irritate the eye – and glaucoma, which often results in blindness.5
  • Rabbits are used in eye and skin-irritation tests to develop warning for handling certain chemicals and to predict the toxicity of accidental exposure.6
  • More than 10,000 blind or visually impaired persons have benefited from corneal transplants that are possible only because of hundreds of trials on rabbits.7

AGING

Because rabbits change distinctly with age, researchers are able to study change in blood components, cardiovascular parameters, endocrine levels, rate of cartilage formation, nerve responses to stimuli and visual parameters.8

DRUG METABOLISM

Rabbits have been used for studying the effects that marijuana has on the central nervous sytem.9

Studying the metabolism of amphetamines in rabbits has allowed greater understanding of amphetamine effects in humans.10

REFERENCES

1 Rhim, JS; Bedigian, HG; Fox, RR: Neoplastic transformation of rabbit cells by murine sarcoma viruses. Int J Cancer 30:365-369, 1982.

2 Besterman, EMM: Experimental coronary atherosclerosis in rabbits. Atherosclerosis 12: 75-83, 1970.

3 National Academy of Sciences Institutes of Medicine. Sciences Washington, D.C.: National Academy, 1991, p. 10.

4 Mair, IWS: Otitis media. In: Spontaneous Animal Models of Human disease, edited by E.J. Andrews, B.C. Ward, and N.H. Altman.  New York: Academic, 1979, vol. 1, p. 84-85.

5 Gelatt, KN; Peiffer, RL Jr. And Williams, LW: Eyelid Confirmational disease (entropion, ectropioin and distichiasis). In: Spontaneous Animal Models of Human Disease, edited by E.J. Andrews, B.C. Ward, and N.H. Altman, New York: Academic, 1979, vol. 1, p. 148-149. Gelatt, KN; Pfeiffer, RL Jr. And Williams, LW: Glaucoma In Spontaneous Animal Model of Human Disease, edited by E.J. Andrews, B.C. Ward, and N.H. Altman. New York: Academic, 1979, vol. 1, p. 155-157.

6 Gaafar, SM and Krawiec, DR: Contact dermatitis. In: Spontaneous Animal Models of Human disease, edited by E.J. Andrews, B.C. Ward, and N.H. Altman, New York: Academic, 1979, vol. II, p 17-19.

7 Yau CW; Busin M; Avni I; Kaufman HE: Antibacterial effect of donor corneas stored in gentaicin-enrched McCarey-Kaufman medium Arch Opthalmol 1986 Feb; 104(2):263-5.

8 Committe on Animal Models for Research on Aging. Mammalian Models for Research on Aging. Washington, D.C. Natl. Acad. Sci., 1981:587.

9 Bishop, SP; Kawamura, K and D.K. Detweiler. Systemic hypertension In: Spontaneous Animal Models of Human Disease, edited by E.J. Andrews, B.C. Ward, and N.H. Altman, New York: Academic, 1979, vol. 1, p. 50-54.

10 Baggot, JD and L.E. Davis: The pharmacokinetics of amphetamine in domestic animals. In: Research Animals in Medicine, edited by L.T. Harrison. DHEW Publ. (NIH) 72-333, 1973, p. 691-699.