We are pleased to share this comment that comes from our sister organization, Progressive Non-Animal Research Society (PNARS).
The scientific validity of non-animal methods (NAMs) for toxicity testing has been a subject of extensive research and debate within the scientific community and our organization – PNARS (Progressive Non-Animal Research Society) is keen to share our insights regarding this matter. NAMs encompass a variety of techniques, such as in vitro assays, computational models, and organ-on-a-chip technologies, that aim to replace or reduce the reliance on traditional animal testing for assessing the safety of substances. Advocates argue that many NAMs have demonstrated significant promise in predicting human responses to substances, often outperforming animal models in terms of accuracy, speed, and cost-effectiveness. These methods leverage advancements in fields like molecular biology, genetics, and computational science to provide more targeted and relevant information about toxicity.
In vitro assays, for instance, use cells or tissues to simulate biological processes and can provide valuable insights into toxicity mechanisms at the cellular level. Computational models, including quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) models and machine learning algorithms, use data from diverse sources to predict toxicity outcomes. Organ-on-a-chip technologies replicate the microenvironment of organs, allowing for more physiologically relevant testing. In certain extent, these methodologies could be merged into an Organ-on-a-chip platform and its functionality may spare animal usages in toxicity testing.
A research group from Pharmaceutical Sciences – University of British Columbia (UBC) is currently developing such platform to accomplish the first “R” in animal research (replacement) regarding toxicity testing. In short, human skin, lung, gut, and lymph node equivalents are established in vitro and are being incorporated into the organ-on-a-chip platform to mimic physiological conditions which is more bio-simulated than animals. Hence, forced ingestion followed by vomiting, forced inhalation causing lung irritation and burning to animals, skin irritation causing painful and itchy sores and rashes can be completely replaced. We consider it a milestone in ending animal usages toxicology testing and this is only one single example in the development of NAMs. The ceiling is unlimited.
In conclusion, while NAMs show significant promise in reducing the reliance on animal testing for toxicity assessments, their widespread adoption requires ongoing research, validation efforts, and collaborative initiatives to address the challenges and ensure their scientific validity. Fundings are urgently needed to support such studies to continuate its progress as government is still not in favor of funding research in this regard (animal-based research costs 14.5 billion dollars per year while non animal-based research costs only a remnant of that). The goal is to strike a balance between ethical considerations, scientific rigor, and regulatory acceptance to ultimately improve the efficiency and human relevance of toxicity testing methods. We as PNARS will keep advocating and supporting the exploration of ending animal usages in toxicology testing.