In Model Systems in Biology, comparative neurobiologist Georg Striedter examines how biomedical researchers have used animal species and in vitro cellular systems to understand and develop treatments for human diseases ranging from cancer and polio to Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Although there have been some major successes, much of this "translational" research on model systems has failed to generalize to humans. Striedter explores the history of such research, focusing on the models used and considering the question of model selection from a variety of perspectives – the philosophical, the historical, and that of practicing biologists.
Striedter reviews some philosophical concepts and ethical issues, including concerns over animal suffering and the compromises that result. He traces the history of the most widely used animal and in vitro models, describing how they compete with one another in a changing ecosystem of models. He examines how therapies for bacterial and viral infections, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological disorders have been developed using animal and cell culture models – and how research into these diseases has both taken advantage of and been hindered by model system differences. Finally, Striedter argues for a "big tent" biology, in which a diverse set of models and research strategies can coexist productively.
Georg Striedter is a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of two books on nervous system evolution, as well as an introductory college-level textbook, Neurobiology: A Functional Approach.
"Everyone in the experimental life sciences should read this book: it may well challenge some of your most fundamental assumptions."
– Todd M. Preuss, Emory University
"In this honest, erudite, and accessible book, Striedter provides an antidote for what ails biomedical research. A must-read for those who care about the future of the life sciences and the debt of service it owes society."
– Susan M. Fitzpatrick, President, James S. McDonnell Foundation
"This book will help scientists think critically about why and how they use particular models. Striedter leverages philosophy, history, and science to analyze the common failure of animal research to translate to humans, and suggests how we can do better."
– Jessica Bolker, Professor of Zoology, University of New Hampshire
"This book provides a useful synthesis for scientists about some of the key issues associated with model choice and use in biology, including glimpses at why models go wrong, and a good starting point for those early in their careers who wish to think more about the implicit strategies and assumptions embedded in contemporary biological research practices."
– Rachel A. Ankeny, Professor of History and Philosophy, University of Adelaide; coauthor of Model Organisms