In more good news for animals in labs, scientists believe they have successfully developed a new method to test new drugs that won’t involve experimenting on animals.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires animal testing for all new drugs. Animal advocates and many in the research community, however, have continued to question the ethics and efficacy of using animal models to study human diseases and predict human reactions to drugs. By the FDA’s own admission, most drugs that undergo preclinical animal testing never even make it to human testing and review by the agency.
“Researchers in drug discovery make small quantities of new potential drug compounds and then test them in animals,” said Mukund Chorghade, chief scientific officer of Empiriko Corporation and president of THINQ Pharma. “It is a very painstaking, laborious and costly process. Frequently, scientists have to sacrifice many animals, and even after all that, the results are not optimal.”
Chorghade and his team believe they have come up with a solution: fake livers. These chemosynthetic livers, or Biomimiks, can be used to test new drugs and predict their safety without using animals. The research was presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) this week and has raised hope that that these fake livers will finally end the use of animals for testing new drugs.
Before new drugs make it to clinical trials where they’ll be taken by humans they’re tested on animals to see if they’re toxic, which is done with metabolic profiling. As the researchers explained in a statement:
That is, after giving an animal a test drug, the experimental compound does its designated job in the body until the liver breaks it down. Then researchers try to detect the resulting, minute amounts of molecular byproducts, or metabolites. It’s these metabolites that are often responsible for causing nasty side effects that can derail an otherwise promising therapeutic candidate.
This is where the chemosynthetic livers come in. According to Chorghade, these chemosynthetic livers not only produce the same metabolites as animals in a fraction of the time, but they provide a more comprehensive profile in larger quantities that can be used for further testing. The researchers also believe they have additional benefits and can also be used to detoxify blood for liver transplant patients and to study the side effects of multiple drug interactions.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that a staggering 25 million animals are used in biomedical research every year. Because the Animal Welfare Act excludes birds, rats and mice from the definition of animal in the U.S., they’re not counted. Even though they’re believed to make up more than 90 percent of the animals used, no one actually knows how many have been needlessly experimented on and killed behind closed doors in the name of science.
With innovations like this, there’s more hope for change in research. Chorghade and his team have already tested more than 50 drugs so far to show that they can accurately mimic how the body processes them with these chemosynthetic livers and they’re working on getting the number up to 100, which is what the FDA requires for regulatory approval.
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