The human subject: an integrative animal model for 21(st) century heart failure research

Am J Transl Res. 2015 Sep 15;7(9):1636-47. eCollection 2015.


Heart failure remains a leading cause of death and it is a major cause of morbidity and mortality affecting tens of millions of people worldwide. Despite decades of extensive research conducted at enormous expense, only a handful of interventions have significantly impacted survival in heart failure. Even the most widely prescribed treatments act primarily to slow disease progression, do not provide sustained survival advantage, and have adverse side effects. Since mortality remains about 50% within five years of diagnosis, the need to increase our understanding of heart failure disease mechanisms and development of preventive and reparative therapies remains critical. Currently, the vast majority of basic science heart failure research is conducted using animal models ranging from fruit flies to primates; however, insights gleaned from decades of animal-based research efforts have not been proportional to research success in terms of deciphering human heart failure and developing effective therapeutics for human patients. Here we discuss the reasons for this translational discrepancy which can be equally attributed to the use of erroneous animal models and the lack of widespread use of human-based research methodologies and address why and how we must position our own species at center stage as the quintessential animal model for 21(st) century heart failure research. If the ultimate goal of the scientific community is to tackle the epidemic status of heart failure, the best way to achieve that goal is through prioritizing human-based, human-relevant research.

Keywords: Heart failure; animal models; human relevance; human-based research; translatability.

Publication types

  • Review