Recent years have seen significant progress in awareness by the scientific community of the need to replace animals in toxicity testing. There have been corresponding government initiatives to achieve that goal, though much more work needs to be done.
What is missing is the application of that scientific paradigm to research on disease modeling. Scientists continue to insist that animals are valuable to understanding and treating human disease, despite the continued failures of animal models to deliver cures.
Slowly, this may be changing. Last month, the National Institutes of Health announced that it is expanding its Tissue Chips program by awarding $15 million per year over the next two years, to develop tissue chips (also known as organs-on-chips) which are miniaturized 3D models made of human cells that mimic human disease. The funding will go towards 13 projects that will further tissue chip models for disorders like kidney disease, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cardiomyopathy, vascular disease, and others.
Some of these tissue chips are showing progress to yield exciting and effective treatments, which we will report on in the coming weeks and months. I look forward to sharing that and other news with you.
For the animals, Barbara Stagno President, CAARE
CAARE submits complaint against U Missouri dog eye experiments
Last week CAARE filed a complaint with the Animal Care division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleging that the University of Missouri Columbia failed to conduct an adequate search for non-animal alternatives to using live dogs in painful and lethal experiments that damaged and burned their eyes with caustic chemicals to study corneal healing. The dogs were killed afterwards.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, researchers are required to conduct a search for alternatives to animals. CAARE obtained UM’s search through Freedom of Information and found it to be entirely lacking in any non-animal methods. CAARE has requested that USDA take remedial action against the University of Missouri and its animal oversight committee for failing to properly investigate and implement procedures that can replace animals in experiments that may otherwise cause pain or distress.
Despite this, the researchers found that the mice responded differently than normal human patients would by rejecting stem cell transplants. They concluded that the humanized mouse model is inadequate for experiments carried out to assess the human response to transplanted stem cells. Dr. Nigel Kooreman, MD, who was part of the research team stated, “Our work clearly shows that, although there is some human immune cell activity, these animals don't fully reconstitute the human immune system." Unfortunately, they plan to “optimize” the mouse model, rather than discard it, a typical response demonstrating the resistance to move away from inadequate and painful mouse experiments.
New skin model to replace animals arrives in the U.S.
French biotech company, Genoskin, which provides human skin to replace animal testing for dermal safety and efficacy tests, will be expanding its offices to the U.S. in early 2018. Utilizing excess skin donated by patients following plastic surgery procedures, the company recycles it into a patented model that can be used for cosmetic, pharmaceutical, chemical and research purposes. According to the company, their tissue model is the closest possible alternative to live, human skin. Genoskin’s founder and CEO, Pascal Descargues, said: “Animal testing is inefficient, time-consuming, expensive and increasingly perceived as unethical. We believe our technology marks a turning point.” By opening a U.S. office, Genoskin products, which have a limited shelf life, will be no longer be subject to customs or FDA/USDA regulations that slow down overseas imports.