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Animal Testing is Holding Back Science
Companies should not animal test and instead use alternative options when new technologies, such as in vitro, in silico and improved human testing, are equally accurate or more accurate than animal testing. Animal testing, that is, the use of animals in testing product safety, was revolutionary in the 1900s. However, with advancements in technology, better testing methods are now available which yield results that are more accurate and more cost effective, allowing companies to create better products which in turn improve the health and lives of humans.
Scientists use animal testing in order to predict the effectiveness of products on humans and obtain regulatory approval to sell both cosmetic and biomedical products. We started using animal testing because animals were the only way to test the safety of products. Humans share similar genes with animals and thus humans and animals can react similarly to chemicals. Some genes we share with mice are in fact, 99 percent identical. Today, we continue to use animals when new technology isn’t capable of testing specific ailments, such as blindness. Animals are also needed for measuring blood pressure, as this also cannot be studied in in vitro generated tissue. We must use animals to also observe a whole-body system’s reaction to products, as new technology has not yet developed an “adequate alternative to testing on a living, whole-body system” (The University of Melbourne). The main reason we still animal test, however, is because the FDA requires animal testing in order to prove the validity of some products even when new tests are more accurate! For instance, the Draize rabbit eye and skin irritation test developed in 1944 can predict human reactions 60% of the time yet there are new methods of testing that have a higher accuracy rate and should be used as a FDA requirement instead of the outdated requirements.
Understanding Animal Research believes that “Animal research has played a vital part in nearly every medical breakthrough over the last decade”, which it has, but now it’s the 21st century where animal testing is an outdated method- the flip phone of the science world. New tests have begun to replace animal tests and for good reason too. New technology is often more accurate than animal testing. For instance, computerized models (in silico) can be more than 95 percent accurate while animal testing has a 75 to 85 percent accuracy rate. New technology is also far more cost effective than animal testing. According to Harvard Edu, animal testing can cost over two billion dollars just to test each compound on animals. New in vitro test called 3T3 neutral red uptake tests phototoxicity (the response when toxic materials are exposed to skin) and costs $1,300, meanwhile its rat tested counterpart costs $11,500. Animal tests are also slow and time consuming. Time and cost factors make it "impossible for regulators to adequately evaluate the potential effects of the more than 100,000 chemicals currently in commerce worldwide”, but with new technology the rate of testing will increase (HSI). New methods will help us advance in science where animal testing falls short, allowing for more testing with higher accuracy and lower costs.
In vitro is a sophisticated new method that uses human cells and tissues to test products and chemicals. One type of in vitro test was created by Harvard’s Wyss Institute and is known as “organs-on-chips”. The Organ Chips are clear flexible polymer that have channels lined by living human organ cells. They contain human cells grown in a state-of-the-art system to mimic the structure and function of human organs and organ systems. The chips can be used, instead of animals, in disease research, drug testing, and toxicity testing and have been shown to replicate human responses more accurately than animal experiments. Tests like these are also fast, as they can be automated using robotics.
In vitro is also more cost effective (tests on skin sensitization using in vitro cost $3,000 while tests on a Guinea Pig cost $6,000) and can be significantly more accurate than animal tests. Allergy tests on Guinea Pigs predicts human responses 72% of the time, but new in vitro technology predicts human reactions 90% of the time. Another case is the Draize rabbit eye and skin irritation test which is 60% accurate, yet in vitro reconstituted animal skin test has 86% accuracy.
The FDA still requires animal tests like Draize in order to approve a product, though in vitro is, in most instances, a better option for testing. Because of the lower cost and speed of testing in vitro, companies such as Johnson & Johnson could test more chemicals, which would improve the health and safety of consumers.
Animal Research Info argues that we should animal test because “Humans and animals share hundreds of illnesses, and consequently animals can act as models for the study of human illness”. What Animal Research Info ignores is In silico and improved human testing, which are equally or more accurate than animal testing. In silico is an advanced computer modeling technique with which scientists can monitor how a part of the body, such as the heart, might react to certain chemicals. One company, Computational Cardiovascular Science Group, “demonstrated that human computer models of heart cells are more accurate than animal experiments at predicting the drug-induced side effects for the heart in humans.” Virtual Assay, is offered on Microsoft windows and “provides a framework to run in silico drug trials in populations of human cardiac cell models for predictions of drug safety” (BHF Centre of Research Excellence.) “The whole process is very quick: it takes under five minutes using a modern laptop to test one drug in a population of 100 human cardiac cell models” (Smithsonian).
Safe testing directly on humans is also now possible. Micro dosing can be used in volunteers to measure how very small doses of potential new drugs behave in the human body. It can determine the "absorption, distribution, metabolism” rate after a drug is injected. These new effective and safe testing methods should be used instead of animal testing.
While animal testing has no doubt served science, companies, and human kind well, there are many tests for which it is no longer necessary. There are over a dozen new non animal tests that have comparable or reduced costs and are far more accurate when compared to animal testing. In order to advance in science we must use new technology to replace animal testing. In conclusion animal testing is an outdated form of testing for both cosmetics and biomedical purposes and should be replaced when equally or more accurate technologies are available, and hopefully one day abolished all together.
Virtual Assay: Drug safety and efficacy prediction software., BHF Centre of Research Excellence, www.cs.ox.ac.uk/ccs/virtual-assay.
Raunio, Hannu. In Silico Toxicology – Non-Testing Methods, NCBI, 30 June 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3129017/.
Standardized ex vivo skin models for cosmetic testing, Genoskin, 22 Feb. 2018, www.genoskin.com/skin-models-cosmetic-testing/.
Gardner-Challis, Nelson. Animal Testing: Is it necessary? The University of Melbourne, 22 Oct. 2016, blogs.unimelb.edu.au/sciencecommunication/2016/10/22/animal-testing-is-it-necessary/.
Alternatives to animal testing, Cruelty Free International, www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/why-we-do-it/alternatives-animal-testing.
Henderson, Paul T., and Chong-xian Pan. Human microdosing for the prediction of patient response, NCBI, Mar. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113695/.
Lee, Miri, et al. Alternatives to In Vivo Draize Rabbit Eye and Skin Irritation Tests with a Focus on 3D Reconstructed Human Cornea-Like Epithelium and Epidermis Models, NCBI, 27 July 2017. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5523559/.
Costs of Animal and Non-Animal Testing, Humane Society International, 2007,
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Passini, Elisa. “Why We Should Test Heart Drugs On a 'Virtual Human' Instead of Animals.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 26 Mar. 2018, www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-we-should-test-heart-drugs-on-virtual-human-instead-animals-180968588/.
Bastasch, Michael. “Cash-Strapped Feds Spend up to $14.5 Billion Annually on Animal Testing.” The Daily Caller, The Daily Caller, 5 Oct. 2013, dailycaller.com/2013/10/05/feds-spend-up-to-14-5-billion-annually-on-animal-testing/.
“Animal Testing - ProCon.org.” Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?, 2 Nov. 2017, animal-testing.procon.org/.
Latham, Jonathan. “The Experiment Is on Us: Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt.” Independent Science News Food Health and Agriculture Bioscience News, 6 May 2013, www.independentsciencenews.org/news/the-experiment-is-on-us-animal-toxicology-testing-science/\
Shanks, Niall, et al. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, BioMed Central, 15 Jan. 2009, peh-med.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1747-5341-4-2.
Bailey, Jarrod, and Michael Balls. Recent efforts to elucidate the scientific validity of animal- based drug tests by the pharmaceutical industry, pro-testing lobby groups, and animal welfare organisations, BMC Medical Ethics, 1 Mar. 2019, bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-019-0352-3.
Kuppast, I J. "A Review on Alternatives to Animal Testing Methods in Drug Development." International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences , 16 Oct. 2012, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8440/666fb4012bcddb6f23b86a1c9a28db214e6f.pdf.
Human Organs-on-Chips, Wyss Institute at Harvard University, wyss.harvard.edu/technology/human-organs-on-chips/.
Forty reasons why we need animals in research, Understanding Animal Research, 11 Sept. 2014, www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/contact-us/science-action-network/forty-reasons-why-we-need-animals-in-research/.
Zerhouni Sets the Record Straight on Animal Research, Speaking of Research, speakingofresearch.com/2014/02/19/zerhouni-sets-the-record-straight-on-animal-research/.
Folk, Emily. Animal Testing May Be Replaced by Technological Advances, The Environmental Magazine, 19 Apr. 2018, emagazine.com/animal-testing-may-be-replaced-by-technological-advances/.
Why Animals are Used, AnimalResearch.Info, 4 Nov. 2014, www.animalresearch.info/en/designing-research/why-animals-are-used/.
Why are animals used for testing medical products?, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 22 Sept. 2018, www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm194932.htm.
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Why Mouse Matters, National Human Genome Research Institute, 23 July 2010, www.genome.gov/10001345/importance-of-mouse-genome/.
Britton, Oliver J. Human In Silico Drug Trials Demonstrate Higher Accuracy than Animal Models in Predicting Clinical Pro-Arrhythmic Cardiotoxicity, Frontiers In Physiology, 12 Sept. 2017, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.00668/full.