The relevance of in silico, in vitro and non-human primate based approaches to clinical research on major depressive disorder

Constança Carvalho, Susana A.M. Varela, Luísa Ferreira Bastos, Inês Orfão, Vanda Beja, Manuel Sapage, Tiago A. Marques, Andrew Knight, Luís Vicente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most severe form of depression and the leading cause of disability worldwide. When considering research approaches aimed at understanding MDD, it is important that their effectiveness is evaluated. Here, we assessed the effectiveness of original studies on MDD by rating their contributions to subsequent medical papers on the subject, and we compared the respective contribution of findings from non-human primate (NHP) studies and from human-based in vitro or in silico research approaches. For each publication, we conducted a quantitative citation analysis and a systematic qualitative analysis of the citations. In the majority of cases, human-based research approaches (both in silico and in vitro) received more citations in subsequent human research papers than did NHP studies. In addition, the human-based approaches were considered to be more relevant to the hypotheses and/or to the methods featured in the citing papers. The results of this study suggest that studies based on in silico and in vitro approaches are taken into account by medical researchers more often than are NHP-based approaches. In addition, these human-based approaches are usually cheaper and less ethically contentious than NHP studies. Therefore, we suggest that the traditional animal-based approach for testing medical hypotheses should be revised, and more opportunities created for further developing human-relevant innovative techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-139
Number of pages12
JournalAlternatives to Laboratory Animals
Issue number3-4
Early online date16 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Dec 2019


  • Animal use alternatives
  • In silico
  • In vitro
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Non-human primate
  • Three Rs


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