The Dissections

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Biology, Science

Dissections are a very delicate subject to be dealt with in the presence of “non-experts”, mainly because there is a lot of confusion about what the term “Dissections” actually indicates; to make a bit of clarity it is necessary to make a small premise:

  • Dissection: it comes from the Latin dissecare (dis=separation; secare=cut) and indicates the practice that allows the study of the internal structure of a living organism, animal or vegetable. The dissection is practiced for different purposes and is practiced only on cadavers (collected during sampling, bought by veterinarians or zoos). In the biological field dissection is both a method of research, analysis, study, and learning, in medicine is a method of diagnosis, study and learning;
  • Vivisection: from the Latin (vivus -a -um=alive; and sectio -onis=cut), refers to the dissection practices practiced on living animals, whether conscious, anesthetized totally or locally. The practice was used for study and more rarely for diagnostics;


Many of us are vivisected at least once in our lives

Dissection is a harmless and useful practice, which does not cause suffering of any kind because carried out on cadavers (organic matter, but not sentient). Anatomical dissections are very useful for the study, since they make you have a practical approach with the operations to be performed, without however forcing you to operate on living matter (therefore any errors have no particular consequences).
Dissections are very useful both in medicine (investigation, practice, training) and in biology (here they play an important role also and especially in research).
“Dissection” therefore refers exclusively to the set of practices.
Vivisection – from Latin (vivus -a -um=alive; and sectio -onis=cut), is the application of dissection techniques on a subject that is still alive (either conscious or anesthetized totally or locally). This description brings to mind, in general, torture or suffering, sometimes we think of those little helpless mice nailed to laboratory tables that squeak in terror.
Vivisection does not necessarily foresee the death or suffering of the subject. Think of a surgical operation: that is vivisection.
Once, vivisection was widely used as a scientific approach because it was the only possible method to investigate a series of physiological mechanisms, now it is disused since the technology has met us by giving us very sophisticated investigative tools, among other things, technology and computer science allow us to have models that are perfectly preserved over time.
Vivisection still retains a certain and undeniable utility, because the only difference that distinguishes it from dissection is the living state of the subject organism.
Yet another discourse, which is often shortened to vivisection and defined by the same name, but which has nothing to do with this practice, is animal experimentation.
Animal testing is mainly used for scientific, medical (including biocompatibility tests) and pharmacological purposes; it is, on the other hand, widely prohibited for the testing of cosmetics and consumer goods.
The benefits of animal testing in biology, medicine and pharmacology are as follows:
1. The amount of percentage of a drug or compound that is absorbed by the blood;
2. How the product is broken down by the organism;
3. The toxicity of the product and its metabolites;
4. The rate of excretion of the product from the organism;
5. Biocompatibility of a material with living tissues (used for prostheses, pacemakers, etc.);
6. Investigation of physiological response mechanisms;
7. Investigation of the probable development of a condition present in the near and distant future;
Now: animal testing in Europe is only allowed if there are no other alternatives; the debate is often distorted when it reaches the public, because there are no two opposing factions, rather: a faction says “We must not use animals, NEVER!” , the other says “We find ourselves forced to use animals, they are if there are no more ethical, precise and less expensive solutions”, generally the second faction is pointed out as “sadistic, unethical, old and too attached to the past”. Each of the two groups carries several points in support of its thesis, but it must be remembered that if we were to skip the phase of animal experimentation, the drugs would be tested directly on humans. Several alternatives are currently being developed which seem to be more reliable, so it is likely that in the near future we will no longer need animals, but we will have new and more precise models.