Ferrets

You might think that ferrets are an unlikely victim of animal experiments, but they were amongst the animals used in a recent experiment funded by the BHF and carried out at the University of Manchester's Institute of Cardiovascular Science1.

In this study, heart disease was artificially induced in ferrets and sheep. The ferrets' blood flow was restricted by the insertion of an inflatable piece of rubber into their aorta, in order to make it narrower. The sheep had an electronic pacemaker fitted to make their hearts beat at 210 beats per minute, around three times their normal resting heart rate2. Once the animals appeared exhausted, weak, and short of breath, they were killed and their hearts dissected. The animals were just a commodity, used, abused then discarded, like a piece of laboratory equipment.

Alarmingly, the paper noted inter-species differences, in particular how the blood chambers differ in sheep's hearts than those in ferrets, cats and rabbits, so how similar they are to humans is anyone's guess! The paper does not attempt to relate the findings to human physiology; in fact, it does not once mention humans.


1. Dependence of cardiac transverse tubules on the BAR domain protein amphiphysin II (BIN-1). Caldwell JL, Smith CE, Taylor RF, Kitmitto A, Eisner DA, Dibb KM, Trafford AW.

2. http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/appendixes/reference_guides/resting_heart_rates.html