Removing Animals From Chemical Safety Testing
Breaking news: PLOS Biology released an article at the end of May detailing a development process for removing animals from chemical safety testing. The authors: Natalie Burden, Fiona Sewell and Kathryn Chapman, begin with an explanation, why scientists are being pushed away from using animal testing (and all of animal testing’s inherent problems, such as maintaining their habitats), and provide a track that take the reader through the requirements and ends with the current direction the scientific community is taking.
They explain that there are scientific drivers (for moving away from animal testing):
Non-animal test methods will also come in useful when addressing specific questions about the mechanisms by which chemicals exert their biological effects, and some of these methods have contributed towards our understanding of complex relationships between dose and biological response. One example of this is when greater effects occur at low concentrations compared with higher ones, a phenomenon that has been observed for a subset of chemicals.
Animal experiments are resource intensive, particularly considering the housing and staffing costs involved, and therefore, development costs could potentially be reduced if fewer animal tests are carried out. The opportunities are not only in replacing animal tests with non-animal technologies; reducing and refining the required animal tests can also have significant business benefits.
And legal drivers:
Within Europe, the cosmetics industry can no longer manufacture or market products that have undergone animal tests, and this has been followed by a geographical ban in India, with Australia and the US possibly following suit.
Global acceptance is an overwhelming factor that seems to be coming along to an extent (see the legal reasons above for a high-level incentive):
…the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Adverse Outcome Pathways programme, which aims to use crowd-sourcing through a web-based platform to bring together all knowledge on how chemicals can induce adverse effects.
They conclude with the following:
Recent years have seen a turning point in our ability to consider the risk of chemicals to humans by using more data from non-animal technologies. There is great potential to apply these scientific and technological advances to reduce our reliance on animal tests and also to establish toxicity screens that bear more human and real-life relevance. While the community works together towards greater regulatory acceptance of non-traditional approaches, short-term gains in the reduction of the numbers of animals and the suffering experienced by test animals can be achieved through the application of novel techniques and better study design. There is also scope for non-animal techniques to be utilised in the early screening of newly developed chemicals, to prioritise candidate selection, inform chemical development (for example, changing the chemistry of the molecule prior to animal studies), and help avoid the testing of harmful chemicals in animals during later stages of development. The knowledge and experience gained from these experiments will be invaluable in the shift towards regulatory acceptance. The numerous joint research initiatives underway hold real promise to provide the scientific foundation that is required to increase confidence in alternative methods. The industry and regulatory communities must now work together to ensure that these achievements are applied in practice, so that chemical safety assessment strategies can be improved and animal use can be reduced.
I for one eagerly await the world that utilizes simulations for chemical testing, one in which chemical compounds are more thoroughly understood based on some sort of universally-accessible encyclopedia of known reactions of their components with high-end prediction capabilites, possibly taking the ‘surprise’ out of short and long-term side effects that yield both animal and human suffering. If it can aide in fast-tracking good products on top of this – even better.
See the link below for the full story.
Original article: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002156
Image source: http://bateschemical.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/chemicals.jpg