Why we do animal research

ESI employees tell why animal research is still necessary and what they pay particular attention to when caring for and working with animals.

30 Jun 2021


Studies in animal models are essential for fundamental knowledge and medically relevant developments. Although more and more research is helping to replace animal experiments or to reduce the number of animals involved, a complete replacement of animal experiments is not yet foreseeable. These experiments are still essential to gain knowledge and to develop new therapeutic approaches and methods. Here, our employees tell you why animal research is still necessary and what they pay particular attention to when caring for and working with animals.

David Poeppel and Jovana Maksic (Foto Credit: ESI)

David Poeppel and Jovana Maksic (Foto Credit: ESI)

David Poeppel, managing director: “Responsible and thoughtfully performed animal research is foundational for a deeper understanding of basic and clinical phenomena, including for those of us who do not work on animal studies.“

Jovana Maksic, PhD student: “In the wake of deforestation and climate change, more animal encounters are unavoidable. This creates an urgency for new perspectives on human-animal interactions and interspecies communication. Animal research is an irreplaceable tool in this endeavor.“

Martha Nari Havenith and Tim (Foto Credit: ESI)

Martha Nari Havenith and Tim (Foto Credit: ESI)

Martha Nari Havenith, research group leader: “We know all our mice ‘personally’ – each mouse will have individual food preferences (there are clear fans of raisins, peanuts, or cereal, but almost everyone love Nutella), and also learning styles (some mice like a challenge in their task, others are easily discouraged by failure, some easily adapt to new twists of the game, others have to learn all over again). In our virtual-reality tasks, the mice really learn with us – and happy mice are smarter mice!”

Tim, animal keeper: “I am an animal keeper at the ESI. I take care of our mice, rats, and marmosets. My job is to clean cages and distribute food. But that’s not enough for the animals to do well: for this reason, we spend a lot of time with them and make sure they don’t get bored. For example with little houses, tubes, nesting material, or running plates for the rodents. In the cages of the marmosets, we regularly change the furnishings and make sure that there is always something new for them to discover.”

Hermann Cuntz and Frederike Klein (Foto Credit: ESI)

Hermann Cuntz and Frederike Klein (Foto Credit: ESI)

Hermann Cuntz, research group leader: “Animal experiments combined with computational models are at the core of good theories that serve basic biology and applied medicine. Therefore we at ESI use computer models to refine the choice of experimental approaches and are a major collaboration partner of the 3R Centre in Giessen. It is our goal to implement the 3R concept (Replace, Reduce, Refine) sustainably and thereby contribute to a reduction in the number of laboratory animals.”

Frederike Klein, PhD student: “To heal a broken system one needs to understand the intact state. When it comes to the brain we are still far away from knowing such a construction plan. To get there we need insights that healthy human subjects cannot grant us. In my quest to understand the basic principles of the brain my animals thus become my most valued and most well cared for lab mates.”

Wolf Singer and Franziska Kaiser (Foto Credit: Amac Garbe, ESI)

Wolf Singer and Franziska Kaiser (Foto Credit: Amac Garbe, ESI)

Wolf Singer, research group leader: “For the treatment of neurological and psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia, autism or epilepsy, we need to understand how a healthy brain works. Since we can only study the structure and function of human brains to a limited extent, studies on animal nervous systems will remain indispensable for the foreseeable future if we want to help people with these disorders.”

Franziska Kaiser, animal keeper: “I am an animal keeper at the ESI. I mainly take care of the macaques, the big monkeys. Especially the trainer, who prepares the animals for the experiments, should build a personal relationship with them over time. That is why we animal keepers make sure from the very beginning that they become best friends. For example, by calling them by their names and rewarding them. In addition to keeping the cages clean, my creativity is needed to find a regular occupation for the animals - even or especially for those who are not actively training for experiments. It is a challenge I am happy to take on every day!”

Alf Theisen and Jean Laurens (Foto Credit: private, ESI)

Alf Theisen and Jean Laurens (Foto Credit: private, ESI)

Alf Theisen, director of the animal facility: “Animal experiments are still indispensable for both basic and clinical research in many areas. The Covid 19 pandemic has again impressively demonstrated this. Without animal experiments on transgenic rodents and primates, the development of highly effective vaccines with few side effects within just one year would have been completely unthinkable.”

Jean Laurens, research group leader: “Animal experiments are the only way to observe the working brain at the neuronal level. I am grateful to the animals that allow me to gather this priceless knowledge: they are wonderful creatures and I pledge to treat them responsibly and lovingly.”

Further information

Interested in finding out more about animal research at the ESI? Then you might want to continue reading here.