The giant leap: Moonwalking into 21st Century non-animal science and medicine

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, describing it as “a giant leap for mankind”. Since then, July 20 has been marked as Science Exploration Day in the world of science and space, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) continue to make great strides in science.

Among other things, space science has helped advance our use of tissue chips (thumb-driven devices with human cells in a 3D matrix that simulate organ functions) on the ISS to learn more about the effects of microgravity on human health and this Applying Knowledge to Improve Human Health on Earth. We must be moving at the same pace here on Earth, where unfortunately large resources are still focused on research and testing techniques for drugs and pesticides and other chemicals, mostly using animal models.

With promising new technologies, scientists have demonstrated the superiority of cruelty-free methods over the conventional use of animals to test the efficacy or safety of drugs. One of the first pieces of evidence for the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly was found in brain organoids.

According to a recent study by scientist GA Van Norman, about 89 percent of novel drugs fail in human trials, with half of them failing due to unexpected toxicity in humans that was not discovered in animal studies. Aspirin, for example, exhibits embryotoxicity in rats and rhesus monkeys and would not be approved if tested under current regulations, but it has been the most widely used drug for humans for decades.

Animal experiments keep millions of animals captive throughout their lives, from small fish, rats, mice and rabbits to larger animals such as dogs and non-human primates that are exposed to various physical and psychological ailments. Most of the animals used in the invasive studies underwent stressful procedures without pain medication.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, Chapter IV, sets the rules for animal experiments. In Section 17 (2) (d), it expressly stipulates that animal experiments should be avoided if there are alternatives. The Government of India has also set up the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experimentation on Animals (CPCSEA) under Chapter IV of the PCA to oversee small and large animal experiments through ethics committees established in each institution and through their oversight committees on large animal experiments. The need to phase out animal testing is urgently needed not only for ethical reasons, but also to develop a strategy that better protects human, animal and environmental health. The concept of a health.

Animal testing costs

Animal studies to predict human diseases are costly, time consuming, and often poorly transmitted to humans. The response to substances differs significantly between species due to biological differences. As a result, the reliability of animal studies is affected by physiological and genetic differences. Failure to bridge the gap between reproducibility and data translation has dire consequences, as evidenced by the waste of resources on early compound development and significant financial losses due to wear and tear at a later date.

In addition, economic variables such as the cost of animals and their care, the maintenance of space and equipment as well as the availability of qualified personnel make other limitations in the use of laboratory animals clear and support the dynamic in the direction of their replacement by precise, fast and cheaper methods without animal testing .

On the way to sustainable ways

With systems such as cell cultures, organ cultures, tissue sections, stem cells, established cell lines, and primary cell cultures, a new generation of scientists has embraced a future for science and medicine. Among other things, they pioneered the application of approaches such as Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) – based on toxicological testing of chemicals based on our understanding of biological metabolic pathways to reduce the uncertainty in risk assessment for chemicals. In addition, computer modeling approaches have been shown to be both lightning fast and accurate. In addition, many cell-based in vitro methods can be automated with robots for “high throughput screening” – and all of this in a fraction of the time that is required to carry out animal experiments. So far, these methods have mainly been applied to chemical safety; however, the same approaches are equally relevant to medical research and drug discovery.

Currently, cruelty-free methods are at a nascent stage in India, with animal models being widely used in more than two thousand facilities across the country. The BioMed21 Collaboration by Humane Society International is a focused effort that brings together a diverse group of stakeholders representing civil society, research funding, academic, regulatory, corporate and other communities, all of whom are committed to the diversification of research methodologies to ensure that India can easily and easily fully embrace these new technologies.

These interest groups recognize the human relevance of cruelty-free methods as well as the translational limits of the current paradigm in biomedical research and drug discovery. Via BioMed21, Humane Society International / India, in cooperation with the Atal Incubation Center – Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, set up the Center for Predictive Human Model Systems in 2019 to work on the promotion of non-animal model systems that are more human-relevant. The year before, in 2018, the Indian Council of Medical Research established an ICMR Center of Excellence in Human Pathway Based Biomedicine and Risk Assessment to pursue similar goals.

Along the road

New breakthroughs in science, combined with our deeper understanding of the grave limitations of animal models, present us with an urgent challenge. We need to redirect our resources away from unreliable approaches towards more accurate, human biology-based and relevant technologies. This paradigm shift in research and testing requires increased investment in research facilities committed to promoting non-animal testing. We also need to invest more in capacity building in this sector, including setting up more centers of excellence to coordinate stakeholder commitments to develop, promote and validate cruelty-free models in India. On this Science Research Day, let’s move together towards more humane and human-relevant technologies to better understand human diseases, even as we maintain the welfare of animals so dependent on our grace.

(Dr. Brinda Poojary (PhD) is Scientific Advisor (Research and Toxicology) at Humane Society International / India. She is a member of several committees promoting non-animal methods in biomedical research and safety testing, including those of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Indian Pharmacopeia Commission (IPC).

Neha Raghuvanshi is a content writer at Humane Society International / India and has done research on economics and sustainability.)