“Alternative to animal experiments” is the term that groups together the techniques of scientific experiments which do not involve the use of living beings, or killed for this purpose.
These are non-animal methods.
These are all in vitro (cellular engineering) and in silico (computer modeling) techniques offering other satisfactory research.
The idea is to obtain a complete system, comparable to the human organism. The goal is to obtain as much data as possible on the species concerned : ours. Tests from a blood sample to assess the toxicity of a drug directly on the patient, 3D modeling of a disease using the power of new technologies, work on ethically identified corpses, preserved organs, improved imaging.
NAT (Non-animal Technologies) (Non-animal Technologies) database created by our German partners Ärzte gegen Tierversuche (Doctors Against Animal Experiment) is a unique project.
The database started with 250 procedural entries developed around the world, completed continuously. These are available in German and English, so that all audiences can learn about these innovative research.
The collection covers many disciplines such as oncology, toxicology, drug development, as well as various techniques such as organ on a chip, 3D bioprinting, in silico research (computer simulations).
Here is a non-exhaustive point on techniques to watch closely that will make animal experimentation obsolete.
Clinical and fundamental research
Computer technology reproduces the human nervous system. Research on certain rare degenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease has stalled. It is impossible to reproduce the cascade of biological events and the various mechanisms on animal models. This innovation is based on the mathematical modeling of the many chemical reactions involved in nerve transmission and makes it possible to simulate neuronal reactions and functions on a computer. This in silico approach reproduces on a computer all the complex neural circuits from synaptic transmission to neuronal activity.
Clinical and fundamental research
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. Gaining insight into the disease is difficult and has so far been largely achieved through invasive animal procedures. The usefulness of such experiments is limited because it remains impossible to create in an animal the complex set of symptoms observed in humans.
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalogram (EEG) are non-invasive technologies that measure the activity of the human brain. Multimodal imaging and its application in schizophrenia is proof that for mental illnesses, it is better to avoid animal research in order to help the patients.
This constantly improving technique allows great advances. The idea exploited in veterinary medicine is simple : use the bodies of ethically identified animals, prepare them in a specific way (emptying cavities, preservatives) in order to preserve them chemically. Scientists then have an integrated system that can be used. The reproduction of blood circulation and other fluids is ensured by an electric pulsatile device and surrogate blood. A team from the Department of Surgery at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Sao Paulo obtained very positive results.
The idea is to reproduce a living mechanism on a microchip that mimics human organs with their nerve and blood endings. By using human cells from an organ and then by reproducing microfluidic exchanges, we obtain a synthesis device that can provide appropriate responses to test the effectiveness of a drug. The next step is the pooling of several devices in order to move towards a miniature human and therefore to mimic the exchanges of the whole organism.
Watch the TED TALK Boston – Wyss Institute, above.
Watch the animation of our German partners Ärtze gegen Tierversuche on the making process of the organ-on-chip.
This is the possibility of evaluating the toxicity of a drug directly from the blood test of the patient concerned. This cutting-edge technique improves the evaluation of drugs while saving animal lives. In addition, obtaining a virtual identification card of the patient’s biological profile allows personalized medicine, so the good idea is to see what is happening directly with the patient, including interactions with other drugs.
A first computer simulator of the biological mechanisms of epilepsy has been validated in laboratory. It allows the modeling of the fundamental biological mechanisms that generate the transmission signal between brain cells and simulates the dysfunctions leading to an epileptic seizure. More than 500,000 people in France are said to suffer from this disease. About 30% of patients do not respond to current treatments and animal models do not provide satisfactory answers. This operational simulator should contribute to the prevention of epileptic phenomena and to the discovery of new therapies.
The creation of an organ in the laboratory is one of the great challenges of modern science. A breakthrough made possible by stem cells that make possible, among other things, to reduce animal experiments and advance research. By culturing human brain cells, an Austrian team saw the formation of a miniature brain within a month. This organoid, cultivated by a bioreactor providing permanent oxygen and nutrients, makes it possible to go beyond simple cell work. A concrete therapeutic promise for microcephaly (a genetic disease) has even been detected.
Applied and fundamental research
3D printing is a technique that makes possible to produce a real object from a computer file and material. This material stacked in successive layers creates volume. By combining cell biology and physical engineering, the design and three-dimensional printing of a range of human tissue models becomes possible. Human tissue becomes the material to be “printed”. This technology provides fabrics with the right architecture and entirely made up of human cells. The structures obtained represent an opportunity to progress in medical research, drug discovery and development. Models of liver, bone and heart tissue have already been developed.
A hyper-realistic rendering table was obtained using data from medical imaging merged with anatomical data. This table offers a true 3D digital anatomical library that can be supplemented with a collection of more than 100 real clinical scanners. This life-size virtual patient provides a way to simulate operations, manipulate and start over. This virtual dissection experience offers a unique and effective training.
This discipline makes it possible to visualize the variations of genes coding for proteins involved in various functions of the body. It allows to study the reaction of cells after direct contact with a substance. Used at the preliminary stage (in screening), this method allows the molecules to be sorted. It is an interesting and possible alternative to some animal experiments.