MAccording to a 2021 study, more than 100 million laboratory rats are put to death each year for scientific research in the United States alone.
Long time researcher. Two years ago the EU Parliament voted in favor of phasing out animal testing. But as of now, those tests are still needed for the drug to be officially approved. It is now that the first step has been taken so that this requirement is not a ‘sign qualification non’ condition.
The US Food and Drug Administration Modernization 2.0 Act, signed by President Joe Biden in late December, ends a 1938 rule that experimental drugs must be tested on animals before being used in clinical trials with humans.
The new law does not ban animal testing, but allows drug makers to demonstrate their efficacy and safety using other methods, such as microfluidic chips and miniature tissue models, which are designed to mimic certain functions and structures of the body. use human cells.
What has tipped the balance in favor of mice is not so much the ethical implications or the expense and limitations of breeding them (the development of vaccines was threatened by a shortage of mice during the pandemic) as the development of new cell technologies. Explained wired,
One such technology is microfluidic organs-on-chips, flexible, transparent polymer devices the size of computer memory that contain different types of human cells and push fluid through tiny channels to mimic blood flow. Gives The first chip with living human cells, a lung model, was described in 2010 by Donald Ingber and his team at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. The tiny device was able to perform basic lung functions such as the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Researchers at the Wyss Institute and other centers have created chips that simulate the liver, stomach and intestine, brain, skin, and more, and have used them to test the effects of drugs and environmental toxins.
Then there are organoids, tiny three-dimensional samples of tissue grown in the lab. In 2008, Japanese biologist Yoshiki Sasai demonstrated that, under the right conditions, it is possible to transform stem cells into neural tissue in a dish. Although no larger than a pea, these models have some of the characteristics of life-size hearts and brains and, because they are grown in a laboratory dish, provide scientists with detailed insight into how organs form and develop. Huh. It has also been shown that they can predict patients’ response to certain drugs, such as cystic fibrosis and chemotherapy.
And then there are computer models using artificial intelligence and machine learning trained on human data, which can also provide quick and cheap alternatives to animal testing. A 2018 study from the University of Oxford found that a computer simulation depicting human heart cells outperformed animal tests in predicting adverse drug effects.
Until now, the US government required all investigational drugs to be tested on animals before proceeding to human trials. But the new law allows drug developers to submit safety and efficacy data from sources other than animals.
This does not mean that the switch from mice to chips will be instantaneous, but that new testing methods will be increasingly used and incorporated into new pharmaceutical applications. Above all, because experiments with rats were not very useful in some areas, especially in drugs aimed at the brain, an area that is now particularly in development and with marked commercial interest, considering that we are going to live long. And, at the same time, our conscience about the rights of animals every time prevents us from conducting experiments with them for scientific purposes.