What is your role exactly ?
I am one of Pro Anima scientific counsellors. I answer questions about animal testing and I am part of the team who select research projects focused on alternative testing methods in order to support them with some funding collected by Pro Anima.
What kind of research do you do and what are the processes ?
I have a PhD in cellular biology. I worked at INSERM, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, in a lab studying mitochondrial diseases. Some of my lab fellows used mice as model, which is a choice I disagree for scientific and ethical reasons. So I used in vitro methods instead.
My research topic was a protein named “complex I” located in mitochondria respiratory chain, which is the main “energy factory” of our body cells. When their function is impaired, various diseases can occur, mostly affecting children and leading to death. As “complex I” is the product of 46 genes, I wanted to know if all of them are necessary for the proper function of complex I and are likely to cause a mitochondrial disease if mutated.
To test if a gene product is likely to cause a disease if mutated, some researchers product mice harboring a mutated gene in some or in all of their cells. I chose to product cell lines harbouring a mutated gene, and studied their functionality.
When and why did you started to do research for Pro Anima ?
I haven’t done research for Pro Anima. I quitted research after my PhD to focuse on full time teaching.
What is your opinion as a scientific on test on animal ? Do you think these are efficient or do you think like Christiane Laupie (Pro Anima director) that these are not fully trustable ? And in this case do you know why there is pressure from companies to keep using them ?
I believe animal testing was the least harmful option (compared to human testing) when alternative methods where inexistent or non validated. Now that alternative tests are available and based on various technologies : in vitro, in silico, using biomedical imaging, etc, I feel that using non human models is unefficient, because of their genetic and epigenetic differences compared to human. Even if various animal species are used (mice, dogs, monkeys…), the results are sadly non 100% reliable, which car lead us to mistakenly believe a product is safe, or to wrongly exclude a product because it has be proven unsafe for animal models.
It is always difficult for someone to change its habit, especially if it was the only one previously reliable in the past. As animal testing is expensive, unwanted by the UE and more and more customers, and alternative methods are being more available, I believe companies will slowly adapt and change their testing processes.
Do you know what is the international opinion of scientific on the matter ? Do you think that test on animal could be completely banned ?
As far as cosmetics are concerned, my personal answer is yes. But it is no in the medical field, because alternative methods are not enough developed. And sadly I don’t believe this will be different in 10 years, because researchers struggle to get basic funding for their research and they are currently not encouraged to work on alternative methods. In my opinion, political impulsion is needed to encourage the scientific community to drop the animal testing habit and work to build up efficient and complete alternative methods. I believe that what is actually done for cosmetics pave the way for the medical fields but that things needs many years to evolve.
Interview conducted by Gabrielle Jacquelin and Claire Brilly
MA Radio and TV Production, National University of Ireland Maynooth