The link between smoking and lung cancer was first revealed through human population studies but attempts to duplicate the effect by forcing laboratory animals to inhale the smoke have generally failed.(4) In fact the harmful effects of individual chemicals present in tobacco smoke can be investigated without resort to animal experiments. In 1968 studies with human bronchial tissue led Britain's Strangeway Research Laboratory in Cambridge to conclude that, "hydrocarbons in cigarette smoke play an essential role in the development of human lung cancer."(5) Today, the Karolinska Institute uses human bronchial cells to study lung toxicity and cancer-inducing properties of chemicals in tobacco smoke and car exhaust emissions.(6)
Biopsy samples from patients with neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy have been suggested as a means of studying the defects of neuromuscular transmlsslon. Using the human tissue samples researchers at Britain's Newcastle General Hospital have obtained a working nerve-muscle preparation allowing studies of the chemical and physiological processes involved, and how they are disrupted in disease.(7)
Osteoarthritis and low back pain are common conditions that have led to much research into the structure and function of articular cartilage and the intervertebral disc. Most investigations have relied on animals or their tissues but there are species differences which could invalidate results.(8) A different approach has been taken by Professor Bayliss and his team at London's Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology. Using human articular cartilage and intervertebral disc from patients, Bayliss argues that, "such systems could be used to gather information about drug action or to study biochemical factors in early stages of disease without resort to animal models."(8)
Nevertheless he notes that "very few attempts have been made to use human cartilage as an alternative to animals."
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