A new computer system could spell the end for animal testing.
The new system offers up more accurate results than animal testing, predicting the toxicity of a substance almost immediately. It is also less expensive, less time-consuming, and poses much less of an ethical dilemma.
“These results are a real eye-opener, they suggest that we can replace many animal tests with computer-based prediction and get more reliable results,” Professor Thomas Hartung, the lead designer of the system, told the Financial Times.
Hartung and his team of researchers used artificial intelligence to analyze the results of 800,000 tests on 10,000 different chemicals, held on a database. According to the Financial Times, “the computer mapped out previously unknown relationships between molecular structure and specific types of toxicity, such as the effect on the eyes, skin, or DNA.”
Both the US Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have begun assessments into whether the new system can replace existing animal tests. The new method is certainly cheaper, according to Hartung. “A new pesticide, for example, might require 30 separate animal tests, costing the sponsoring company about $20m,” he said. He also noted that during their research, his team had found that many animal testing methods are simply unnecessary. “We found that often the same chemical has been tested dozens of times in the same way, such as putting it into rabbits’ eyes to check if it’s irritating,” he explained.
Hartung is not the first to notice the inefficiency of animal tests. In May, researchers working for Elsevier and Bayer, an analytics group, discovered that many pharmaceutical animal tests do not accurately predict a human response. Some tests even provoked reactions from animals that have never been seen before in a human, the study revealed.
“All life science companies have a desire to decrease animal testing,” said Dr. Matthew Clark, the director of scientific services at Elsevier and Bayer. “With continued pressure from governments, societies, and animal welfare groups, pharmaceutical organizations are exploring ways to do that.”
Further strengthening the fight against animal testing, airline AirBridgeCargo recently announced it would no longer transport live animals to research facilities for experimentation.
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