Alternatives to animal testing
Most scientists and governments say they agree that animal testing should cause as little suffering as possible, and that alternatives to animal testing need to be developed. The "three Rs", first described by Russell and Burch (1959), are guiding principles for the use of animals in research in many countries:
- Reduction refers to methods that enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals, or to obtain more information from the same number of animals.
- Refinement refers to methods that alleviate or minimize potential pain, suffering or distress, and enhance animal welfare for the animals still used.
- Replacement refers to the preferred use of non-animal methods over animal methods whenever it is possible to achieve the same scientific aim.
The two major alternatives to in vivo animal testing are in vitro cell culture techniques and in silico computer simulation. However, some claim they are not true alternatives since simulations use data from prior animal experiments and cultured cells often require animal derived products, such as serum. Others say that they cannot replace animals completely as they are unlikely to ever provide enough information about the complex interactions of living systems. Examples of computer simulations available include models of diabetes, asthma, and drug absorption, though potential new medicines identified using these techniques are currently still required to be verified in animal tests before licensing.
Cell culture is currently the most successful, and promising, alternative to animal use. For example, cultured cells have also been developed to create monoclonal antibodies, prior to this production required animals to undergo a procedure likely to cause pain and distress.
A third alternative now attracting considerable interest is so-called microdosing, in which the basic behaviour of drugs is assessed using human volunteers receiving doses well below those expected to produce whole-body effects.
Institutes researching (and organizations funding) alternatives to animal testing include:
- Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing
- UCDavis Center for Animal Alternatives
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Dr Hadwen Trust
In October 2006 the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) launched an online database of toxicology non-animal alternative test methods. Categories at present include in vitro methods, QSAR models and a bibliographic section.
- Russell, W.M.S. and Burch, R.L. "The Removal of Inhumanity: The Three R's". Retrieved 2007-05-24.
- "Navigating chemical space for biology and medicine". Nature. 432 (7019): 855–61. 16 December, 2004. Check date values in:
- "Diabetes". entelos.com. Retrieved 2007-10-05. (from internet archive)
- "Asthma". entelos.com. Retrieved 2007-10-05. (from internet archive)
- "Special section: Monoclonal antibodies". Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School ofPublic Health. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
- Malcolm Rowland (2006). "Microdosing and the 3Rs". National Center for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research ( NC3Rs ). Retrieved 2007-09-22. Unknown parameter
- "Home page". Evcam Database Service on Alternative methods toAnimal Experimentation. Retrieved 2007-10-05.