Will animal testing be superfluous in the future?

Will animal testing be superfluous in the future?


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Research association is looking for alternatives to animal testing

Animal experiments are still one of the dark sides of modern medical research. Millions of animals around the world are suffering severe suffering for experimental purposes. The research association "BB3R", which includes the Free University (FU) Berlin, the Technical University (TU) Berlin, the Charité University Medicine, the University of Potsdam and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), is therefore looking for alternatives animal experiments and has already presented the first results.

For example, in the future, artificially obtained human skin cells, as they are currently being tested in the research network, could be used for skin cancer research and thus completely replace animal testing on nude mice, as was previously the case, reports the FU Berlin. The effects of cosmetics and chemicals could also be tested in future without animal testing using artificial skin cells, explains pharmacologist Monika Schäfer-Korting, Vice President of the Free University of Berlin (FU).

Reduction of animal experiments The criticism of animal experiments not only relies on ethical and moral concerns, but also expresses considerable doubts about the meaningfulness of animal experiments. Because despite many similarities, there are clear differences between the human organism and that of the animals used. The results are by no means always transferable. Nevertheless, millions of vertebrates lose their lives each year for experimental purposes in Germany alone. The research association "BBR3" has therefore set itself the goal of developing alternative methods to animal experiments. "It says BBfor the Berlin-Brandenburg region, the abbreviation 3Rfor the reduction (reduction), the improvement (refinement) and the replacement (replacement) of animal experiments ”, reports the FU Berlin.

Ban on animal testing in the cosmetics industry The BBR3 research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Monika Schäfer-Korting told “Focus Online” that political pressure and, above all, the provision of funding for research made it possible to do without many animal experiments. As an example of political pressure, the expert mentions the ban on animal testing for the cosmetics industry, which has been applicable in all EU countries since 2013. Alternative methods are now available here that make animal testing unnecessary. In other areas, however, the pharmaceutical industry is far from ready to seriously consider doing without animal testing.

Pharmaceutical research continues to rely on animal testing Despite the known weaknesses in animal testing and ethical and moral concerns, pharmaceutical research has seen an increase in animal testing in recent years as it represents a great temptation with the new knowledge of bioinformatics in mice Switching off individual genes or implanting human genes into them, Monika Schäfer-Korting reports in the article by "Focus Online". The only positive thing here is that “fewer animals are now required for such experiments than at the beginning.” Nevertheless, in 2013 almost three million vertebrates were used in Germany for experiments and other scientific purposes, with almost 90 percent of them rodents (especially mice and rats), reports “Focus Online”, citing figures from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Berlin had a top position nationwide with around 422,000 experimental animals, not least because a lot of basic research is being carried out in the capital.

Miniature models of the human organism In order to test the systemic effects of new drugs without animal testing, miniaturized versions of the organs are currently being reproduced on a chip at the Technical University of Berlin and linked together by a kind of cycle. This so-called multi-organ chip (MOC) technology "makes it possible to analyze aspects of human physiology through the in vivo-like interaction of miniaturized multi-organ models in an in vitro model," reports Professor Dr. Roland Lauster from the Institute of Biotechnology at the TU Berlin. The development of a complete model of the human organism, which reflects all processes in the body and allows tests without live animals or humans, would actually be a groundbreaking success and would make medical research significantly easier.

90 percent of animal experiments avoidable Pharmacologist Monika Schäfer-Korting comes to the conclusion that animal experiments are already largely unnecessary today. On the basis of modern biotechnology and bioinformatics, pharmaceutical research will be able to do 90 percent in the future without animal testing, the doctor continued. It only becomes difficult with highly complex reactions such as testing new blood pressure lowerers, the expert reports to “Focus Online”. In their view, the development of systemic models also offers further opportunities, for example for research into autoimmune diseases and allergies. "At the moment it's about getting immune cells into the skin models too," quotes "Focus Online", the scientist. When an immune reaction is triggered, various cell reactions can be analyzed, which is a promising approach for allergy research. (fp)

Image: Stephanie Hofschlaeger / pixelio.de

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