For animal science has so much to teach us about human medicine. While some of the overlaps and parallels are obvious – we know how much DNA we share with primates, the first pig heart has been transplanted into a human – there is so much more that we have learnt from the animal world. For example, studying kangaroos, in particular the female’s three vaginas, has improved in-vitro fertilisation success rates. Watching how a giraffe breathes can help save the life of someone struggling with asthma. Investigating why birds that live in the frozen Arctic circle don’t freeze to death led to advances with treating hypothermia. Getting a ECG on the 150kg heart of a humpback whale was instrumental to keeping patients with cardiac failure living longer.
We owe animals so much, it’s time to focus on examining how they live and what we still have to learn from them. Better shared understanding of how our species coexists with millions of others can lead to untold medical advances, help both humans and animals and improve the world for all creatures from single-celled bacteria to a 30,000 kg whale. Who knows, maybe a kiss from a frog will save your life?
Dr Matt Morgan is a British intensive care doctor. His open letter addressed to patients during the 2020 COVID pandemic has been read by over half a million people worldwide and viewed by over two million times after featuring on the Channel 4 news. His articles have featured in The Guardian, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Mirror and Huffington Post. A regular writer for the internationally acclaimed British Medical Journal, his article ‘A letter from the ICU’ is one of their most popular ever opinion article, read by over 130,000 people in 2020. His first book, Critical, has been translated into four languages.