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​Animal Model

updated: May 21, 2024


An animal model is a non-human species used in biomedical research because it can mimic aspects of a biological process or disease found in humans. Animal models (e.g., mice, rats, zebrafish and others) are sufficiently like humans in their anatomy, physiology or response to a pathogen that researchers can extrapolate the results of animal model studies to better understand human physiology and disease. By using animal models, researchers can perform experiments that would be impractical or ethically prohibited with humans.


Animal Model: Spontaneous animal models are those for which a particular disease appears naturally in the animal studied. So dogs, for instance, are the only spontaneous animal model for prostate cancer, an important disease in human health. Overall, animal models have proven valuable in studies of nearly every human condition.

Elaine Ostrander
Elaine A. Ostrander, Ph.D.

Chief & NIH Distinguished Investigator

Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch