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Non-animal alternatives

Processes such as cell culture, computer modelling, imaging and microdosing of human volunteers that can give information on potential harmful effects of a substance

Specialised cells

Cells which are adapted to carry out a specific function in the body

Home Office

The UK government department responsible for regulating the use of animals in scientific research.


The study of the human body to investigate how a disease or injury lead to death

The discovery of insulin

3D model of insulin

The Pancreas is one of the body's endocrine glands

Learn about the others in Hormones and their Effects

In 1921 two researchers, Fred Banting and Charles Best, were the first to discover insulin and use it to treat diabetes.

Banting and Best did not work in isolation. They were building on observations and experiments from many other researchers who had studied diabetes.

From the 1850s onwards, autopsies of people who had died from diabetes suggested that diabetes was caused when the pancreas did not function properly.

Many physicians speculated that specialised cells, called the islets of Langerhans, produced a chemical that allowed the body to regulate its blood glucose level. Diabetes was caused when this chemical was not produced.

To test their theory Banting and Best used 10 dogs. They made the dogs diabetic and then investigated treatments for the diabetes.

The result of Banting and Best's research has helped to save the lives of millions of people.

Can you discover insulin?

Scientists and regulators, under current regulation, must always weigh up the benefits of new medicines with the need to use animals.

Although the majority of the UK public support the use of animals in medical research, some people have very strong opinions about testing medicines on animals.

Decide on a set of rules that should govern whether testing can take place or not.

Then click here to see what the current UK law says about animal research.