New methods eliminating animal testing in laboratories

Animal research
© iStock/Sakan Piriyapongsak

A researcher from the University of Exeter has been recognised by Animal Free Research UK as one of the best in the country for developing and training researchers in alternatives to animal research.

The new Animal Free Research UK Centre of Excellence (ARC 2.0) has recognised an innovative new approach developed by the University of Exeter’s Professor Lorna Harries. Her method is used in the exploration of repurposing existing drugs for new indicators in humanised cell culture systems in order to replace the use of animals in laboratories and health research centres.

The team of researchers will train other researchers to use these new methods at the start of their careers. The training effort seeks to empower the scientists to develop the techniques and continue to use them.

The ARC 2.0 centre lead Professor Lorna Harries, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said that working with human cells produces research that is more likely to be effective in humans. Harries said: “A lot of findings that look promising in rats or mice just don’t translate to benefits in people.”

She continued: “Working in humanised cell systems isn’t an easy option currently – it takes months to get the right conditions where human cells will behave like they do in the body. Yet once you manage that, they respond much better.

“Through my laboratory, we now want to train a new generation of academics who are excited to develop these approaches and create a step change in reducing the use of animals in research.”

Around 1 in 1,000 new drugs tested in animals progress to human testing, of these, only 1 in 5 drugs is approved for public use. The odds of a drug tested by conventional channels actually resulting in clinical use is therefor less that 1 in 5000.

Professor Neil Gow Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Exeter said: “It’s really exciting that this new Centre is looking at innovative ways of reducing the use of animals in research. This commitment is in line with our ethos, governance principles and the legal framework that we deploy that insists on the highest ethical standards in all of our research involving animals.

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