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The Important Role of Animals in Research at NIDCD

September 14, 2012

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) take animal welfare seriously.

The NIH, federally supported scientific investigators, and their research institutions have ethical and legal obligations to ensure the welfare of, and minimize risks for, every animal or person that participates in NIH-funded research. Furthermore, all participants studied in federally funded research—including animals—are protected by laws, regulations, and policies to ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their welfare.

The NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) provides oversight of all NIH-supported research activities that involve animals. OLAW monitors NIH-funded institutions to ensure their compliance with animal welfare laws and policies. Importantly, OLAW investigates every allegation it receives concerning inappropriate animal care or use involving studies NIH is supporting.

The mission of the NIH is to support science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. Research activities range from basic laboratory studies at the molecular or cellular levels, to animal studies, to human studies. The NIDCD is part of the NIH.

Both people and animals have unique and important roles as research subjects. Many medical advances that enhance the lives of both humans and animals originate from animal studies. The types of animals used in research are chosen for their similarity to humans in anatomy, physiology, and/or genetics. Not only can we learn how to prevent, treat, and cure human diseases by studying animals, but often the treatments developed can also be used to improve the health of animals.

Only the highest quality research projects are considered by the NIH for funding. Research projects involving animal models are considered only after a group of scientists from institutions around the world have rigorously evaluated the proposal, and they consider criteria such as the justifications necessitating the use of animals and plans for veterinary care. These are scientists who understand the scientific value of a particular animal model for exploring the biological processes of a health condition and its treatments.

The NIDCD supports and conducts research and research training on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech and language and provides health information, based upon scientific discovery, to the public. It is estimated that more than 46 million people in the United States have some kind of a communication disorder. NIDCD-supported research has contributed to advances in biomedical and behavioral research that improve the lives of millions of people. For more information about communication disorders and NIDCD research, please visit http://www.nidcd.nih.gov.

For information about animals in research, please visit http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/air/index.htm.