4 min read

Will Technology End Animal Testing?

<p>Flickr, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/frank-wouters/">belgianchocolate</a></p>

One option is to replace animal subjects with thumb-size chips that combine a thin layer of human cells with microchips and pump blood-like fluid through them.

One option is to replace animal subjects with thumb-size chips that combine a thin layer of human cells with microchips and pump blood-like fluid through them.

At Harvard's Wyss Institute, researchers have built a human gut-on-a-chip that replicates intestinal muscular contractions and a lung-on-a-chip with air-sac and capillary cells that exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. The pseudo-lung can get infected and mimic complicated diseases such as chemotherapy-induced pulmonary edema. The institute is also working on chips for bone marrow, heart, and even brain tissue.Computer models that mimic the effects of pharmaceuticals on the human body are also a promising alternative.The Center for Systems Biology at the University of Iceland recently finished modeling all the chemical interactions of human metabolism and is starting on the blood. Last year, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco used a computer to predict negative side effects in on-market drugs with about 50 percent accuracy. That accuracy will only get better.Lastly, human testing is becoming more popular, because animal tests often don't account for the genetic variability found in the human population. As these alternatives gain speed, many hope that animal testing will become less and less important.

At Harvard's Wyss Institute, researchers have built a human gut-on-a-chip that replicates intestinal muscular contractions and a lung-on-a-chip with air-sac and capillary cells that exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. The pseudo-lung can get infected and mimic complicated diseases such as chemotherapy-induced pulmonary edema. The institute is also working on chips for bone marrow, heart, and even brain tissue.

Computer models that mimic the effects of pharmaceuticals on the human body are also a promising alternative.

The Center for Systems Biology at the University of Iceland recently finished modeling all the chemical interactions of human metabolism and is starting on the blood. Last year, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco used a computer to predict negative side effects in on-market drugs with about 50 percent accuracy. That accuracy will only get better.