Chemical toxicity testing: A new algorithm from Rutgers University could reduce animal testing

An image to illustrate animal testing for chemical toxicity
© iStock/artisteer

Will the use of animal testing to determine chemical toxicity soon become outdated? A new algorithm could offer a quicker, animal-free testing process.

Chemical toxicity testing is used to determine the level of chemical exposure which is harmful to humans. It is vital for the safety of workers and consumers in various industries. The majority of chemical compounds have not been comprehensively tested, according to a new study published in Environmental Health and Perspectives. However, animal testing is expensive, time consuming, and has ethical implications.

Chemical toxicity testing

Lead researcher Daniel Russo, a doctoral candidate at the Rutgers University-Camden Centre for Computational and Integrative Biology, said: “There is an urgent, worldwide need for an accurate, cost-effective and rapid way to test the toxicity of chemicals, in order to ensure the safety of the people who work with them and of the environments in which they are used. Animal testing alone cannot meet this need.”

The new algorithm

Co-author Lauren Aleksunes, an associate professor at Rutgers’ Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, explained: “The algorithm developed by Daniel and the Zhu laboratory mines massive amounts of data, and discerns relationships between fragments of compounds from different chemical classes, exponentially faster than a human could. This model is efficient and provides companies and regulators with a tool to prioritize chemicals that may need more comprehensive testing in animals before use in commerce.”

Animal testing

The corresponding author Hao Zhu, an associate professor of chemistry at Rutgers-Camden and the Rutgers and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, concluded: “While the complete replacement of animal testing is still not feasible, this model takes an important step toward meeting the needs of industry, in which new chemicals are constantly under development, and for environmental and ecological safety.”


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