The European Commission has published its Report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the development, validation and legal acceptance of methods alternative to animal testing in the field of cosmetics (2015-2017). The report informs the Parliament and the Council about the compliance with this ban by economic operators in the EU and the impacts of the animal testing and marketing bans. More info.
The most recent findings in the area of the 3Rs.
The research-based pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland established the Animal Welfare Charter in 2010 with a view to further improving and advancing conditions in animal experiments and the protection of laboratory animals. In the annual report just published, the member companies of Interpharma report on concrete research projects in the field of the 3Rs and alternative methods as well as advances for the well-being of animals. The Interpharma Animal Welfare Report 2018 is available in English, French and German. More info.
The study shows that supporting biobanking, the development of new human tissue modelling technology, and raising awareness in the scientific and regulatory communities are key ways in which the barriers to greater uptake of human tissue models can be overcome. Recent technological advances have accelerated the development of human tissue and cell based models applicable for safety assessment across a broad variety of organs and tissue systems, and the use of these models has increased over the past four years. To take full advantage of the opportunities human tissue models offer, scientists and regulators internationally need to come to a consensus opinion on how these technologies can be supported to produce fit-for-purpose pharmaceutical safety tests. Through this dialogue, and continued research investment into these models, the use of animals in some safety experiments could be replaced with in vitro or ex vivo human tissue alternatives with the potential to improve predictive value to humans. More info.
Advances in stem cell culture have made it possible to derive in vitro 3D organoids, which capture some of the key multicellular, anatomical and functional hallmarks of real organs. The organoids allow researchers to study organ development and disease. Some recent studies demonstrate the potential of organoids in basic research, drug discovery and regenerative medicine, suggesting that more widespread adoption of organoids in these fields will become a reality in the coming decades. Still, although the use of organoids addresses some ethical issues, the prospect of generating in vitro human embryo-like structures is not free from ethical concerns. In addition, the translation of organoid technology into real-life preclinical and clinical applications is complex. Challenges include regulating self-organization to generate organoids that develop deterministically, robustly and to physiologically relevant shapes and sizes; prolonging organoid lifespan to create mature, functional tissues that reach homeostasis; and recapitulating multi-factorial pathologies by incorporating additional key tissue compartments of native organs (such as the vasculature or immune system). Overcoming these challenges will require a multidisciplinary approach, and lessons from the field of bioengineering are likely to be particularly impactful, researchers from the École Poly-technique Fédérale de Lausanne state. More info.
An international collaboration hub, BioMed21, has been launched to inform stakeholders representing animal protection, research funding, academic, regulatory, corporate and other communities about human-specific approaches in health research. The hub offers information related to innovative animal-free research approaches including relevant publications, funding opportunities, workshops, training opportunities, and other events. Developed by the Humane Society International, the platform aims at bringing together scientists and institutions from across Europe, Asia and the Americas who share a vision of human-focused paradigm in health research. More info.
InVitro+Jobs, a German web portal promoting animal-free research methods, published an overview on where we stand regarding alternatives to animal experiments in reproduction and developmental toxicology. The portal reviewed progress and regulations in that particular field of research. It discusses the EU project ReProTect, where researchers developed and evaluated methods combining in vitro methods with tissue and sensor technologies for testing reproduction and development toxicology. It also addresses new chip systems with human tissue or imitated organs in reproductive toxicology. Another challenge reviewed are animal-free methods for developmental neurotoxicity, to test if environmental chemicals and drugs can cause adverse neurological effects. More info.
The 21st European Congress on Alternatives to Animal Testing organised by the European society EUSAAT took place from 23 – 26 September 2018 in Linz, Austria. In addition to the European society for alternatives to animal testing, international societies such as the Chinese Society for Alternatives to Animal Experiments (CCARE) and the American Society for Cellular and 4 / 5 Computational Toxicology (ASCCT) participated. The sessions covered newly established 3R centres across Europe, animal welfare and education, disease models, non-animal tools for basic biomedical research, toxicity studies, -omics techniques, advanced 3D models including recent progress in developing human-organ-chips. A presentation on the 3RCC and round-table discussions between the 3RCC and other European 3R centres took place to address the differences and similarities as well as possible synergies between 3R centres across Europe. More info.
A science-driven identification of most appropriate methods is reported to be key for furthering a multi-sectorial decrease in animal testing. The article published this month states that overall, the main constraints to the application of non-animal alternatives are the still existing gaps in scientific knowledge and technological limitations. The article reports the outcome of a joint meeting involving representatives from various industry sectors (agrochemicals, chemicals, cosmetics, detergents, fragrances, pharmaceuticals veterinary immunological and pharmaceutical products) and from different European Commission directorates. Despite of the clear progress in the number of alternative approaches being adopted and the availability of new 3Rs-relevant technologies and mechanistic approaches, a number of challenges that different industry sectors may face in the implementation of alternative methods were reported. These include for example: i) the further characterization of mechanistic pathways of toxicity; ii) the development of assays covering current scientific gaps, iii) the better characterization of links between in vitro readouts and outcome in the target species; iv) the better definition of alternative method applicability domains, and v) the appropriate implementation of the available approaches. More information.
Experiments using mice are often heavily publicised but very, very few of them translate into humans. A recent article published in Cosmos: The Science of Everything reports on why animal models are of questionable value. More info.
A recent publication, based on a survey of participants in Laboratory Animal Science (LAS) courses, showed that Refinement was considered more feasible than Replacement, as well as more urgent, and was also favoured over Reduction. The level of an animal’s welfare, and especially the prevention of pain, was regarded as the most pressing ethical issue, and as more important than the number of animals used or the use of animals as such. Furthermore, if LAS courses appear to raise awareness of the 3Rs, they had no measurable effect on the existing low level of belief that animal experimentation can be fully replaced by non-animal methods. Respondents of the survey therefore reversed the `hierarchy’ of the 3Rs proposed by their architects, Russell and Burch, prioritizing Refinement over Reduction, and Reduction over Replacement. The study published in PLOSone was based on an online survey of participants in Laboratory Animal Science (LAS) courses held in eight venues in four European countries: Portugal (Porto, Braga), Germany (Munich, Heidelberg), Switzerland (Basel, Lausanne, Zurich), and Denmark (Copenhagen). More info.