Could virtual fish replace animal testing?

The country’s new national research programme, called Advancing 3R – Animals, Research and Society, promotes scientific projects that contribute to improving, reducing or replacing animal experiments in Swiss research.

Among its recent initiatives is a joint project of the aquatic research institute Eawag and the University of Utrecht. The project, which is has received almost CHF 1 million in funding, is scheduled to run for four years and has the objective of replacing fish-based animal testing with a combination of in-vitro tests and computer models.

Under the leadership of Kristin Schirmer, Eawag has been working for many years to replace animal experiments on fish with in-vitro methods. These are toxicity tests based on fish cells grown in the laboratory. These cells can be used to study how toxic certain chemicals are to fish. This is an important result, which determines, for example, whether new substances can be approved for the market.

A test developed by Schirmer’s team based on rainbow trout gill cells was released last year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the latest guideline in the field of environmental toxicology.

“We chose gill cells because it is the gills that first come into contact with chemicals in water due to their large surface area in the fish,” explained Schirmer in a press release. “So by observing how the gill cells are damaged by a chemical, we can predict how that chemical would affect a living fish.”

The virtual fish makes a comprehensive view possible

However, an even more comprehensive picture of how chemicals can affect the fish can only be obtained by considering other important organs in addition to the gills. The researchers are now pursuing this objective and are working on tests based on the intestine or nerve cells of rainbow trout. A look at the molecular level – ie at proteins or RNA molecules – will help to complete the picture.

As Ksenia Groh, who is the research group leader, explained: “Our vision is that the data from the in-vitro tests on cells of all major organs will flow into a single computer model, the virtual fish.”

This should enable detailed and well-founded statements to be made on how chemicals affect fish – without having to resort to experiments on living fish.

Cooperation with partners in practice

An important part of the project is the involvement of the chemical industry as well as the authorities responsible for the approval of new chemicals.

“We want to develop the virtual fish together with them in order to align the process from development to application at the regulatory level to the effective needs – which in the case of the gill test took twelve years – and thus speed it up,” said Groh.

Prof Bernhard Truffer, an expert in the field of technical innovations, who is also involved in the project, noted: “Early involvement of the players is important so that the requirements posed by later implementation can already be taken into account during development of the methods. In this way, animal testing can be replaced more quickly in practice.”

Colette vom Berg, who is involved in the project as a research group leader, summarised: “For some time now, Eawag has been doing research with many partners to develop tests that make experiments on living fish unnecessary. With this great project, we have the opportunity to combine different approaches and close gaps.”

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Animal protection organisation granted permission to seek judicial review over cosmetic testing

An animal protection organisation has been given permission to seek judicial review against the Home Office to establish whether there is a ban on cosmetic testing in Britain.

Cruelty Free International (CFI) — a leading animal protection organisation behind the case — argued the government has “effectively” overturned a ban first introduced in 1998.

They claimed the Home Office “seems to be telling the public one thing — that cosmetic animal testing is banned in the UK — and doing something entirely different in practice”.

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U.S. FDA takes steps away from animal testing requirement

In response to increasing pressure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is re-examining its requirement for animal tests to be performed for products under its jurisdiction. A story in Chemical & Engineering News, an independent news outlet of the American Chemical Society, explains that some alternative technologies that do not involve the use of animals could even improve the ability to predict human risk and efficacy for many drugs.

Although animal models have been critical in bringing new therapies to market, this type of testing raises ethical concerns, says Senior Correspondent Britt E. Erickson. In addition, animals aren’t identical to humans, and results from non-human studies can lead researchers astray. Different species absorb and metabolize drugs differently, so a drug could “fail” in mice or rats, but work well in humans, or vice versa.

Historically, FDA has only allowed alternatives to animal studies in a handful of cases, but the tide is turning. In a June 14 meeting with its Science Board, FDA discussed nonanimal approaches that could replace, reduce and refine testing for regulatory purposes. The agency’s new alternative methods (NAM) group explained that new technologies, such as microphysiological systems in combination with cellular and computational methods, have the potential to provide better results and move products to the marketplace faster. FDA is considering putting these technologies through their paces in a qualification process, which would mean that developers would not have to re-validate tools that have gone through this rigorous procedure. To fund these efforts, FDA is asking Congress for $5 million for its NAMs initiative in fiscal 2023. And language in bills to reauthorize FDA user fees would allow the agency to consider alternative technologies for preclinical drug testing, meaning it would no longer have to require animal studies.

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Animal welfare charity granted permission to seek judicial review on cosmetic testing

An animal welfare charity has been given permission to seek judicial review against the Home Office to establish whether there is a ban on cosmetic testing in Britain.

Cruelty Free International (CFI) — a leading animal protection organisation behind the case — argued the government has “effectively” overturned a ban first introduced in 1998.

They claimed the Home Office “seems to be telling the public one thing — that cosmetic animal testing is banned in the UK — and doing something entirely different in practice”.

Last year officials revealed that UK rules on testing would be aligned with a decision by the European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) board of appeal, requiring certain ingredients to be trialled on animals to ensure safety.

In a letter to CFI in August 2021, the Home Office said that the ban on animal testing for finished cosmetic products – as opposed to individual ingredients – remained in force.

“The principle of the 1997/98 policy, namely that testing of finished cosmetic products on animals for the registration and marketing of those products is not required and therefore not permitted, remains in force,” the letter added.

But the correspondence, first obtained by The Guardian,added that the Home Office would “publicly clarify its position now with the formal publication of an updated policy and regulatory guidance on the regulation of animal testing”.

Kerry Postlewhite, the director of government and regulatory affairs at CFI, however, said: “This judicial review is vital to establish whether there is a ban on cosmetic testing on animals in the UK.

“The Home Office admitted in its letter of August 2021 to us that it now allows if not all animal testing for cosmetic ingredients — including those solely used in cosmetics.”

She added: “The government seems to be telling the public one thing — that cosmetic animal testing is banned in the UK — and doing something entirely different in practice”

“We know from poll after poll, that the British people are firmly opposed to animals suffering for beauty. A poll carried out by YouGov last autumn revealed that 85 per cent find it unacceptable to test cosmetic ingredients on animals”.

A government spokesperson told The Independent: “The UK is committed to the protection of animals in science and to ensuring animal research is only carried out where no practicable alternative exists.

“For the small procedures still carried out on animals, this research is crucial for the development of new medicines and cutting-edge medical technologies.”

“Animal testing of cosmetics to permit their marketing for consumer use has been banned in the UK since 1998 and there has been no change to this legislation in recent times”.

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旅美小提琴演奏家罗诗琦,受邀走进美国新泽西州演出“仲夏夜之梦”儿童音乐会 – Music Industry Today

旅美小提琴演奏家罗诗琦,受邀走进美国新泽西州演出“仲夏夜之梦”儿童音乐会 – Music Industry Today – EIN Presswire

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False Claims About COVID Vax Animal Testing Resurface

False claims that COVID-19 vaccine trials were halted when animals died in preclinical studies are making the rounds on social media again, according to reports.

The misinformation gained traction in 2021 after Sen. Bob Hall (R-Texas) claimed at a hearing that the “American people are now guinea pigs.” A 1-minute clip of his remarks was recently re-upped on Twitter, including the false claim that early-phase studies for COVID vaccines were stopped due to safety issues.

“What I have read, they actually started the animal tests and because the animals were dying, they stopped the tests,” Hall claimed in 2021, according to Associated Press (AP). “They didn’t do the human testing and they stopped the animal tests because the animals were dying, and then they turned it out for the public,” Hall said.

None of the makers of COVID vaccines for the U.S. reported that preclinical testing was stopped due to animal safety concerns, AP noted. A spokesperson for Pfizer, maker of the Comirnaty vaccine, confirmed in an email to MedPage Today that, “Pfizer conducted and completed preclinical studies of our COVID-19 vaccine in 2020,” and pointed to a September 2020 press release with data from those preclinical studies. A peer-reviewed paper was published in Nature in 2021.

A spokesperson at Janssen, maker of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) viral vector-based COVID vaccine, also told MedPage Today in an email that “No vaccine-related deaths were observed in preclinical tests of our COVID-19 vaccine.”

And the FDA jumped in, telling the AP that the claim by Hall “is completely false. All authorized and approved COVID-19 vaccines underwent animal studies.”

Pfizer and Moderna used rats to test their mRNA vaccines, according to the AP, while J&J used rabbits, and “Other animal testing was also done for safety and efficacy. Research on monkeys for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines was detailed in scientific journals. None of the studies reported prematurely ending because of animal deaths.”

Novavax, a protein-subunit COVID vaccine that gained FDA backing in June 2022, also did not end early trials abruptly because of animal deaths, although that shot was not yet available in the U.S. when Hall made his false statements.

Hall did not return a request for comment from MedPage Today as of press time. However, as late as November 2021, he hosted a Facebook Live session, falsely claiming that people are as likely to “die from the vaccine shot” as they are from COVID-19.

  • author['full_name']

    Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.

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Global Non-animal Alternative Testing Market Expected to Generate a Revenue of $29,390.3 Million and Grow at a CAGR of 13.48% over the Estimated Period 2021-2030 | [290-Pages] Published by Research Dive – Music Industry Today

Global Non-animal Alternative Testing Market Expected to Generate a Revenue of $29,390.3 Million and Grow at a CAGR of 13.48% over the Estimated Period 2021-2030 | [290-Pages] Published by Research Dive – Music Industry Today – EIN Presswire

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Rights body ready to help end animal testing in medical schools – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a US-based animal rights non-profit organisation, has offered to help Pakistan implement humane practices in veterinary and medical schools and end animal testing in Pakistan through a series of reforms.

The offer was made during a zoom meeting between the prime minister’s strategic reforms adviser, Salman Sufi, and PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, Chief of the Science Advancement and Outreach Division Dr Katherine Roe and Vice President of International Laboratory Methods Shalin Gala on July 22, 2022.

PETA had approached Mr Sufi, after a viral video footage revealed veterinary students in at least three institutions in Pakistan were involved in inhumane practices on animals, such as operating on animals without anaesthetics and denying them post-operative care despite excruciating pain.

On June 30, Salman Sufi announced an initial set of historic strategic reforms that included barring animals from being used for live testing in any veterinary college or industrial complex in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

PETA says outdated and cruel testing in Pakistan must be replaced by non-animal methods

“This is a great start and we fully support this measure, and we agreed that more can and should be done since many of the veterinary schools are geographically outside of ICT and are not obligated to follow this new reform policy,” said PETA in a response.

It underscored Pakistan should issue a circular or a regulatory reform that explicitly embraced humane simulation training models for veterinary education and ban training methods that were not medically necessary and did not directly benefit animals involved at the federal level or through the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council.

PETA cited numerous simulation models for both basic and advanced veterinary and zoology training, such as SynDaver Surgical Canine model, the Critical Care Jerry and Critical Care Fluffy models, the Virtual Animal Anatomy, and Biosphera softwares, to avoid harming animals during the training.

“As such, we are proposing a new collaboration with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Salman Sufi to help provide advanced simulation models so that universities in Pakistan can transition to harm-free and humane veterinary education. We are currently working with Salman Sufi to gather information and do an assessment of the universities’ needs with respect to acquiring simulation models so we can best plan how to assist them,” Ms Gala said.

In response to questions on areas of collaboration with Pakistan, PETA shared more topics that it was addressing with Mr Sufi, such as modernising medical training.

Shalin Gala said before the current Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) came into being, PETA was in communication with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) to advise them on various reforms for their undergraduate medical (or MBBS) curriculum to replace the use of animals nationwide with non-animal methods.

According to Ms Gala, PETA had advised them to adopt its proposed curriculum reform language stating, “no animals or animal parts shall be used for any aspect of the MBBS curriculum including but not limited to practical labs, learning objectives, contents, teaching/learning strategy, teaching aids and assessments. Only non-animal teaching, learning, demonstration and assessment methods shall be used such as didactic methods, interactive computer-aided learning (CAL), human patient simulators (HPS), human cadavers, supervised clinical practice or other non-animal models”.

This reform, if enacted, would mirror similar reforms adopted internationally as well, she added.

“We would like for Pakistan’s MBBS curriculum to have the same non-animal training standard and use modern simulation technology. We hope to work with Salman Sufi to move this strategic reform forward, which will put Pakistan’s medical education system in sync with the US, Canada, India and others that no longer use animals for undergraduate medical training,” Ms Gala said.

In 2014, following discussions with PETA India, the University Grants Commission in India issued a notification ending dissection and experimentation, for training purposes, in university and college zoology and life sciences undergraduate and postgraduate courses, sparing 19 million animals in that country alone from being killed and cut apart for dissection every year.

PETA asserted its scientists were eager to work with Mr Sufi on setting up a national database in Pakistan for approved non-animal biomedical research and training methods, and drafting regulatory language that the use of animals for such purposes must be replaced by approved non-animal methods that appear in the database.

It also intended to assist conduct scientific reviews of the efficacy of animal use to identify additional areas in which such use had failed to advance human health, or in which non-animal methods were now available, and could be ended quickly.

While technical skills were important, it was also of the utmost importance to instill a culture of care in veterinary training. Creating a dichotomy between the animals used for training and the animal companions seen in an examination room did not benefit the veterinary profession, according to PETA.

“We are currently exploring ways to create materials relevant to Pakistani society and potentially incorporating this compassion-building programme into current school curricula,” the animal rights organisation said.

In response to a question on trafficking of animals, PETA said Mr Sufi mentioned his proposed reform to seize wildlife held in unsuitable living conditions and repatriate them to relevant countries for rehabilitation.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022

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