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It is a popular misconception that animal experiments have led to all medical breakthroughs. In fact, key breakthroughs in the development of antibiotics, anaesthetics, AIDS and cancer drugs, among others, were the result of non-animal testing. Unfortunately the continued use of animals in medical research experiments goes largely unquestioned despite the fact it often produces unreliable data and massive inefficiencies, as well as holding back scientific innovation.
A recent survey of European animal researchers found that none had a budget to search for alternatives to using animals and only 50% reported that they did try to look for alternatives, spending an average of only two hours per project doing so (1).
However, there are a growing number of alternatives to animal testing, many of which capitalise on the latest cutting edge technologies, including:
We believe that laboratory-grown human cells hold the key to understanding cancers, kidney disease and HIV/AIDS, and can be used in chemical safety testing, and vaccine and medicine development.
Analytical techniques used by chemists can be used to detect toxins in products.
Donated tissues can be used to investigate diseases and test the safety and efficacy of drugs.
With increasing sophistication, these can predict the harmfulness of chemicals and can even simulate body processes.
Harmless ‘microdosing’ of human subjects enables researchers to obtain human-relevant data on the way their drugs work more quickly.
Source: (1) ATLA 37, 297-303, 2009