Research hopes to give animals a break from toxicity testing

Researchers at two British universities are embarking on a project to develop alternatives to using rodents in toxicity testing.

Thanks to a recent injection of funding, researchers from the University of East Anglia (UAE) and University of Liverpool (UL) are to embark on a research project using early frog embryos, computer modelling and mammalian cells to develop new methods of predicting drug toxicity and give mice and rats break from testing.

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has promised £90,000 to help fund the project, as supporting the “uptake of alternative approaches and technologies is a key aim of the NC3Rs” explained chief executive Dr Vicky Robinson.

Recent figures from the Home Office suggest that, in 2012 alone, nearly 80,000 rats and mice were used in studies on drug testing. It is hoped that this new research could help “reduce this burden on animal testing” and “have a huge impact in significantly reducing the number of animals used for drug safety testing each year,” explained Dr Grant Wheeler of the UAE’s School of Biological Sciences.

Dr Wheeler, who is collaborating with colleague Dr Vicky Sherwood (School of Pharmacy) and Dr Dominic Williams (UL) on the project, said the team would be hoping to create a new protocol to be used to “assess toxicity of new potential drugs in the early stages of testing”, hopefully allowing the industry to take a first step away from using rodents in drug trials. 


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