It’s ideal for learning to understand people, Hughes says. “With regards to DNA, we are 80 percent the same, so we can use them really well to identify specific diseases and our development.” Chimpanzees, for example, are also used as lab animals, and their DNA is 99 percent similar to that of humans, and rat’s 97.5 percent.
So called Ceanorhabditis elegans They have a very similar digestive system and nerve cells in our functions. Like the human heart, the muscles surrounding the mouth of the worm act as a pump. “We can then measure this pumping motion, and it can be compared to making an EKG,” Hughes explains. “Worms have skin that looks a lot like ours.” Except that it is transparent.
The latter quality allows you to see very well what is happening inside the animals while searching. “You can see how cells divide and then move,” Hughes says. “If you want to study a protein, you can add a colored protein and see what happens instantly at the cellular level. They may look different from us, but we can learn a lot from them.”
The advantage of worms, according to Hughes, is that they are much smaller and do not need a cage for them. In the Nijmegen laboratory, worms are stored in Petri dishes in small refrigerators. “It is much smaller and only eats bacteria. That is why it is so much cheaper.”
So no need for monkeys or mice for the kind of research Hughes is doing. “Technically, worms are laboratory animals, but for many people they feel very different morally.”
Response from the Proefdiervrij Foundation
“We see the use of worms in place of large animals such as mice as a transformation of the problem, not a solution. Although the worm test is not formally defined as an animal experiment and does not require a CCD license,” these animals also have value and deserve protection.
Most animal experiments ultimately do nothing for humans because the differences between humans and animals are so great. In order to solve this problem, we need research models that rely on humans, not animals. “
The worms found in Nijmegen are used to research cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and obesity, for example. Since 80 percent of them are genetically identical to humans, there are also areas of research that are not suitable for them. “Viruses,” Hughes says. “Unfortunately, we can’t use it to search for coronavirus, for example.”
Although the worms do not contain blood, they can be used to test for leukemia and to discover drugs. “We can see how they interact with drugs at the molecular level. That way we investigate how people get sick from certain substances.”