Former U.S. National Institutes of Health director Dr. Elias Zerhouni acknowledged to his colleagues during a government conference regarding funding for research that using experiments on animals to benefit humans has been a huge failure:
“We have moved away from studying human disease in humans… We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one, me included. The problem is that [animal testing] hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem. We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans.” —Dr. Elias Zerhouni
The world’s finest forward-thinking scientists are now designing and employing alternatives to animal testing that are relevant to human health for studying diseases and evaluating products because tests on animals are brutal, time-consuming, and generally inapplicable to humans.
These sophisticated tests employing human cells and tissues—also known as in vitro methods—advanced computer modeling methods—often referred to as in silico models—and research involving human subjects are some of the alternatives to animal experimentation.
These and other non-animal approaches are frequently quicker to perform and are not hampered by the specific differences that make extrapolating human results from animal tests difficult or impossible.
Why we should consider alternatives to animal testing
The following are some reasons why we should consider alternatives to animal testing
1. Testing without animals could be more reliable
According to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, research on mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and monkeys did not find a connection between glass fibers and cancer. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not classify glass fibers as carcinogenic until after human studies proved the connection.
2. It’s possible that non-animal testing is more reliable than animal testing
When it comes to detecting compounds that irritate the skin, researchers found that one test employing human skin cells generated in a lab (in vitro) was more precise than conventional animal testing. The in vitro test successfully identified every chemical skin irritant in experiments contrasting the two testing methods, but tests on rabbits were unsuccessful 40% of the time.
3. Animal lives are saved through alternative testing methods
For instance, the “Lethal Dose 50” (LD50) test is a testing strategy in which poisonous compounds are ingested by study animals until half of them pass away, and the other half are killed afterward. The alternative for LD50 was created by Swedish researcher Dr. Bjrn Ekwall.
Animal lives are saved by this replacement test, which employs donated human tissues. In comparison to LD50, which has an accuracy of only 60–65 percent, the test can estimate toxicity properly up to 85% of the time. In contrast to animal testing, the test can target effects on particular human organs and disclose precise toxicological characteristics.
4. Testing alternatives might be quicker
In contrast to animal testing, which frequently takes weeks or even months, many alternative tests, such those employing synthetic skin rather than real animals, can deliver information in as little as a few minutes to a few hours. In comparison to the time it takes to investigate one product using animal testing, quick testing timeframes allow researchers to evaluate five or six goods using alternative methods.
5. Non-animal testing might be more affordable
Faster testing times enable firms to see a return on their investment more quickly and bring items to market. Testing without using animals saves money by eliminating the need to buy, house, feed, and care for the animals.
6. Animal testing alternatives are more environmentally responsible
This is particularly true in toxicity testing, when researchers breed, use, and ultimately discard millions of test animals that are deemed to be dangerous or pathogenic trash after being bred, tested, and used. Alternatives to animal testing are less wasteful and less damaging to the environment.
The use of alternatives reduces or completely eliminates the need to test things on animals while still being safe and effective. Using alternatives to animal testing does not endanger people or hinder medical advancement. Instead, utilizing these substitutes enhances society as a whole.
Top 7 Alternatives to Animal Testing
Here are just a few instances of the numerous cutting-edge, non-animal techniques that are available and their proven advantages:
1. The Three Rs.
The “Three R’s” are replacing, reducing, or improving the use of animals in research and testing. This idea was initially put forth more than 60 years ago in response to mounting political and social pressure to create ethical substitutes for animal experimentation in all fields of endeavor.
“New alternative methodologies” refer to testing techniques that use the Three R’s. The Three R’s are as follows, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:
- Replacing: Test methods that replace traditional animal models with non-animal models, such as computer simulations, biochemical models, or cell-based models, or that swap out one animal species for a less advanced one (for example, replacing a mouse with a worm).
- Reducing: A test approach that still meets testing goals while requiring the fewest possible animals for the test.
- Refining: A testing procedure that lessens animal suffering or promotes well-being, for example by giving animals better habitat or enrichment.
2. Choosing Well-Recognized Safe Ingredients
Numerous cosmetic items already on the market use components with a lengthy history of safe use, negating the need for further testing.
Theoretically, businesses may select from a long list of products that have been in use for a long time to guarantee safety—without having to subject new ones to animal testing.
3. In vitro Testing
To imitate the shape and operation of human organs and organ systems, researchers have developed “organs-on-chips” that incorporate human cells cultured in cutting-edge technology.
The chips have been found to imitate human physiology, illnesses, and drug responses more closely than crude animal trials do, and they can be used in place of animals in disease research, drug testing, and toxicity testing.
These chips have already been modified by certain businesses, like AlveoliX, MIMETAS, and Emulate, Inc., into items that other researchers can use in place of animals. The safety of medications, chemicals, cosmetics, and consumer goods can be evaluated using a range of cell-based tests and tissue models.
For instance, the 3-dimensional, human cell-derived EpiDermTM Tissue Model from MatTek Life Sciences can be used in place of rabbits in the agonizing, protracted studies that are typically conducted to assess chemicals’ capacity to erode or irritate the skin.
The EpiAlveolar, a groundbreaking 3-dimensional model of the deepest region of the human lung, was created by MatTek Life Sciences with assistance from the PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. The human cell-based model can be used to investigate the consequences of breathing in various chemicals, infections, and (e-)cigarette smoke.
Human lung cells are exposed to chemicals in a dish using equipment produced by the German company VITROCELL to test the safety of inhaled substances. Numerous chemicals are inhaled by people every day, some on purpose (like cigarette smoke) and some unintentionally (such as pesticides).
The VITROCELL devices imitate what happens when a chemical enters a human lung by exposing human cells to the airborne toxin on one side while providing them with nutrition on the other.
The existing technique of enclosing rats in tiny tubes and requiring them to breathe deadly gases for hours until they are eventually killed can be replaced by these devices as well as EpiAlveolar.
Scientists have created tests that use human blood cells to find drug impurities that can raise the body’s temperature dangerously. The non-animal techniques take the place of the outdated ones that involve rectally checking a patient’s temperature, injecting medications or extracts from medical devices into their veins, restraints, and bleeding horseshoe crabs or rabbits.
Scientists at the Institute for Biochemistry, Biotechnology, and Bioinformatics at the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany developed fully human-derived antibodies capable of blocking the toxic toxin that causes diphtheria thanks to research supported by the PETA International Science Consortium Ltd.
By using this technique, it will no longer be necessary to repeatedly inject horses with the diphtheria toxin and draw large amounts of blood from them to collect the antibodies their immune systems manufacture to combat the disease.
4. Computer (in Silico) Modeling
Numerous complex computer models that simulate human biology and the development of diseases have been created by researchers. Studies show that these models can effectively replace the use of animals in many common drug testing as well as the prediction of how novel medications will interact with the human body.
Quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs) are computer-based methods for estimating a substance’s likelihood of being dangerous based on its resemblance to other drugs and our understanding of human biology.
These methods can substitute animal studies. QSAR techniques are being used more frequently by businesses and governments to avoid using animals in chemical testing.
5. Research with Human Volunteers
Before large-scale human trials, a technique known as “microdosing” can offer crucial information on the safety of an experimental drug and how it is metabolized in humans.
A very modest one-time medication dose is administered to volunteers, and advanced imaging methods are utilized to track how the drug reacts in the body. Microdosing can help eliminate medication compounds that won’t function in humans, so they are never tested on animals and can substitute for some animal experiments.
Modern brain imaging and recording methods, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), can replace outdated studies using animals with brain injuries, such as rats, cats, and monkeys.
Through the use of intracranial electroencephalography and transcranial magnetic stimulation, researchers may now safely study the human brain at the level of a single neuron, and they can even temporarily and reversibly cause brain illnesses.
6. Human Tissues
Human tissue donations, both healthy and ill, can offer a more relevant method of researching human biology and disease than animal testing. After surgery, human tissue can be donated (e.g. biopsies, cosmetic surgery, and transplants).
Human tissue can even be used after a person has passed away. For instance, skin and ocular models constructed from reconstituted human skin and other tissues are employed in place of the torturous rabbit irritation tests (e.g. post-mortems).
Understanding brain regeneration, the consequences of Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s illness have all benefited from new insights supplied by post-mortem brain tissue.
7. Human-Patient Simulators
It has been demonstrated that computerized human patient simulators that are startlingly lifelike teach students physiology and pharmacology more effectively than crude exercises using the dissection of animals.
The most advanced simulators replicate illnesses and injuries and simulate the biological reaction to treatment and drug injections. Virtual reality systems, computer simulations, and supervised clinical experience have replaced the use of animal laboratories in medical teaching in all medical schools throughout the United States, Canada, and India.
Systems like TraumaMan, which simulate breathing, and bleeding human torso with realistic layers of skin and tissue, ribs, and internal organs, are frequently used to teach emergency surgical procedures.
It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that these systems better transmit lifesaving skills than programs that require students to cut into live pigs, goats, or dogs. Despite the availability of cutting-edge, efficient, non-animal alternatives, experimenters nevertheless subject innumerable animals to pain and suffering.
Nearly 200 stories of cruel experiments from the past century are featured in “Without Consent,” a timeline created by PETA features almost 200 stories of twisted experiments from the past century, these stories include ones in which dogs were made to breathe cigarette smoke for months, mice were dissected while still conscious, and cats were drowned, paralyzed, and deafened.
Through animal testing, animals having been used without much consideration given to the wellbeing of the animal. But as we have seen, there are better alternatives to animal testing which are cost effective and prefer better answer to our biological questions.
So, it’s better we consider at these alternatives and use them for our chemical testing. We should be thinking about the sustainability of our overall environment.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.