Beyond Animal Testing: Promising Alternatives for Ethical Research

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With a growing interest in animal rights and protection, groups such as 'PETA' have been funding and working on ending animal testing by finding alternative methods of testing. In 2004, PETA launched our 'Give the Animals 5' campaign, which identified five tests on animals that could be ended immediately without any threat to public health or safety: skin corrosion, skin absorption, skin irritation, phototoxicity, and pyrogenicity tests (PETA. 2018) Animal protection organizations would argue whether or not animal testing is ethical or not due to the cruelty and pain it inflicts on the animals. It was estimated that '127 Million Non-human Vertebrates were Used Worldwide for Scientific Purposes in 2005' (Knight A, 2008). Additionally, according to an analysis of government data, the National Institutes of Health spends between $12 billion and nearly $14.5 billion on animal testing every year. (Newcomer. K. 2020) CeeTox is working on moving skin allergy testing away from using animals and PETA is funding this organization as well as many others working on non-animal testing alternatives.

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In vitro testing is becoming a popular alternative to animal testing and entails removing a small sample of tissue from the human body and using it for testing, allowing the organism to live without harm. In- vitro testing can be used in precision medicine to identify which testing or treatments are most likely to help the patient; detect diseases and monitor a patient's health. It is actually more accurate for testing than using animals because human cells may react differently to certain medications than animal cells and thus it produces more accurate and faster results. It also creates less waste than in-vivo testing and is more cost-effective than animal testing, therefore, providing economic, environmental, and ethical benefits. The downside, however, is that it can only monitor an organ rather than an entire organ system, so there are potentially some diseases that can't be monitored or explored. (Adereyko. O, 2019) In recent news, China's Covid-19 vaccine, S-Trimmer has been tested on Monkeys in early 2020. The results showed an increase in antibody levels by two times the amount of a recovered patient without the vaccine. They were also not affected as much by the symptoms when injected with the virus after the vaccine was given. A similar vaccine is now being produced in India, 'Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN'. In vitro, testing however is also being used in an attempt to find a vaccine for Covid-19. 'Todos Medical Ltd.' Which is an in vitro diagnostics company, is working on Covid-19 solutions. ( NEW YORK, NY, REHOVOT, Israel, and SINGAPORE, Sept. 25, 2020) They have developed Antibody testing kits, PCR kits for molecular testing, PPE, Ventilators, and medical supplies to aid in the reduction of the spread and the recovery of Covid-19.

In-silico testing is another alternative to using animal models. In-silico testing is testing through using a computer simulation to determine the effect a substance has on a human or animal body by showing how it would react. It is a method regularly used in toxicology to determine whether a drug is toxic to a human or not. Its advantages are the humane aspects of it as animals are not being harmed or killed in the testing process. It also shows whether a drug will interact with a specific binding site, making is an efficient way to test drugs and show the effectiveness of them. However, people have doubts with this method as it is running on a computer so can contain errors such as viruses or the computer shutting down, or the program being ineffectively made. (StudyMoose. 2016) Moreover, despite this disadvantage, in-silico testing proves to be highly valuable to the toxicological sciences and aids in reducing the number of animals used in testing. It is an overall ethical method of testing.

A final alternative to animal testing is clinical trials using human volunteers. Again, with the current Covid-19 pandemic, animals have been used in the testing process. Nevertheless, human trials will need to be conducted before a vaccine is made available to the public. 'In May the first human trials began in England with 1,000 volunteers signing up to take part in the Oxford trial. Then on 16 June, Imperial College London began its human testing stage. In July Oxford University said the results were 'promising''.(Independent. 2020) 'Micro dosing' is a method used in human volunteers where the volunteer is given a small dose of a drug and imaging techniques are used to monitor how the drug behaves in their body. (PETA. 2018) fMRIs with human volunteers are a safe method of testing and monitoring brain disorders. This reduces the number of animals that have their brains damaged using harsh methods in an animal testing laboratory. It's a completely non-invasive test that scans the brain for brain activity and can aid in brain research and treatment of a range of neurodegenerative diseases and to predict the body's response to certain treatments.

In conclusion, due to the number of unethical tests carried out of animals per year and the number of animals that are mistreated, harmed, and killed, these alternative methods of animal testing need considerable research so as to be able to replace animal testing. These methods have proven safe and effective. however, there still is a requirement for animal models at this stage due to them not being advanced enough to totally replace them. After further advancement in these alternatives, they may work out more economically friendly as well as better for the welfare of the animals. With growing interest among people in the environment and ethical animal treatment, it would be important to focus on the research of finding new, safe, and effective methods to replace animal modeling.

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