Replacing Animals

Did you realise that 95% of drugs tested ‘successfully’ on animals fail when they are translated to humans? Is this just a co-incidence or is it time to face reality?  Animal testing just doesn’t work.

A sample of water is injected into the abdomen of a mouse. No anaesthetic is used. She displays disorientation, paralysis of hind limbs, breathing difficulties and a violent jumping reaction. She becomes unresponsive and cold to the touch.

Within 5 hours she has died from heart failure.
(Mouse Bioassay – used to determine the toxicity caused by algal blooms in water supplies.)

Internationally, and now, within Australian water authorities, the mouse bioassay has been replaced with a number of alternatives, including the Elisa test
[ii] - a similar technology to those used in home pregnancy tests - and the Lawrence Method (HPLC)[iii]. These methods have proven to be far more accurate than the mouse bioassay which was often criticized for its inconsistency between laboratories.

As new technologies emerge, the range of non-animal methods continues to grow. Despite claims by some researchers that alternative methods are not yet sophisticated enough to replace animal tests, they are more dependable and produce more accurate results than tests on species who differ from humans in their metabolism of toxins, absorption of chemicals, mechanisms of DNA repair and lifespan – all factors that have a profound effect on the efficacy of drugs.

HRA advocates for the replacement of animals, not just because of the unethical and cruel treatment, but just as importantly for the ability of science to advance in delivery of vital drugs and other treatments to humans.

Here are a few examples of the inefficient and unethical use of animals, and what could be used to replace the animal to provide an accurate and effective result.

Instead of drug testing on dogs:

  • Microdosing - involves giving research participants miniscule doses of an experimental drug then tracking the drug’s movement through the body by radio labelling. Its distribution and metabolism in bodily fluids is measured and enables researchers to quantify its concentrations in blood, urine, saliva and white blood cells.
  • Microfluidic chips - consist of a network of interconnected reservoirs mimicking the organ systems of a living being. Researchers can place lung, liver, fat, gastric or heart cells inside the reservoirs, add a particular drug and quickly evaluate how the chemical is distributed, metabolised and excreted.

Instead of invasive brain research on marmosets:

  • Non-invasive imaging techniques - such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) allow us to visualize internal structures of the human brain.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) - a non-invasive treatment using a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain. It has been shown to affect mood, motor and cognitive functioning. TMS has few side effects, and is also used as a treatment for mental illness.

Instead of eye irritancy and skin abrasion tests in rabbits:

  • Eytex(TM) -  uses a vegetable protein extracted from jack beans. Like the cornea of the eye, this clear protein gel becomes cloudy when in contact with an irritating substance. The degree of cloudiness ("damage") is measured with a spectrophotometer, which is much more accurate than assessing the damage to a rabbit’s eyes.
  • Reconstructed human epidermis – involves a multi-layered human skin grown in the laboratory. Cells can be examined under the microscope, membrane damage can be assessed by leakage of enzymes, or inflammation can be determined by release of proteins and molecules called interleukins.

Instead of antibody production in mice:

  • Phage Display is the interaction between a virus and a bacterium to produce antibodies, which can be produced in a much shorter time than traditional animal methods.

These examples provide a simple snapshot of non-animal methods already available that not only eliminate animal suffering, but are also more predictive of human outcomes.

It’s imperative that we move away from archaic animal tests and instead embrace new technologies.

Other nations are already doing this, with government-funded centres in the UK, Europe and the United States dedicated to the development and validation of non-animal methods. Sadly, Australia has no such commitment.
See our 2008 presentation at University of Wollongong for an overview of other countries' commitment to this issue. Australia needs to keep up!

Alternatives Symposium Wollongong Alternatives Symposium Wollongong (258KB)

For more in-depth information about replacements for animals, see our publication

Better ways to do research Better ways to do research (9682KB)

and visit the following sites: 

ATATAR - Alternatives to Animal Testing in Australian Research

InterNICHE - replacing animals in education

ANU - Innovative Methods and Alternatives to Animal Research Unit

NORINA - a Norweigan inventory of alternatives in teaching and training

3Rs Reduction Co - UK

Altweb - Global clearing house for information on alternatives to animal testing

AltTox - Non-animal methods for toxicity testing

AltBib - Alternatives to the Use of Live Vertebrates in Biomedical Research and Testing  

What you can do:

Please write to the Federal Minister for Health and ask that Australia invests in the development and validation of non-animal methods.

The Hon. Greg Hunt
Federal Minister for Health
House of Representatives
PO Box 6022
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

And write to the NHMRC asking that funding be redirected from animal-based research to human-specific research that will replace animal experiments.

Prof. Anne Kelso CEO
National Health & Medical Research Council
GPO Box 1421
Canberra ACT 2601

Animals should NOT suffer when there are more efficient methods.

We need your help!

Please support Humane Research Australia with your membership and/or donation so that we can continue the fight to end cruel and ineffective animal experiments and promote a better future – for both animals and for human medical progress.

News regarding non-animal methods

11 July 2018 - Database Analysis More Reliable Than Animal Testing For Toxic Chemicals
10 July 2018 - New animal-free allergy test launches for cosmetics
9 July 2018 - Bioprinting organs and the future of healthcare
9 July 2018 - How Digital Twins of the Human Body Can Advance Healthcare
4 July 2018 - Eye-on-a-chip': New views on eye disease treatment
14 April 2018 - EPA Releases Draft Policy to Reduce Animal Testing for Skin Sensitization
27 March 2018 - Why computer simulations should replace animal testing for heart drugs
17 October 2017 - Aussie researchers have found a way to test cancer treatments without killing lab mice
August 2017 - Ethics of animal research in human disease remediation, its institutional teaching; and alternatives to animal experimentation
27 July 2017 - Major breakthrough in medicine world: Human antibodies produced in a lab for first time
25 July 2017 - The next pharmaceutical revolution could be 3D bioprinted
11 July 2017 - New tools to potentially reduce need for animal testing
4 July 2017 - Researchers discover differences between mice and humans in function of insulin-producing beta cells
30 May 2017 - Researchers develop new method to predict potency of allergenic substances
30 May 2017 - Companies are making human skin in labs to curb animal testing of products
28 April 2017 - Researchers succeed in generating 3D bioprinted cartilage tissue
20 January 2017 - Scientists initiate first ethical guidelines for organs cultivated in vitro
12 January 2017 - Liver-in-a-droplet. No kidding
21 December 2016 - “Body-on-a-chip” set to accelerate drug discovery
22 November 2016 - Lab-based 'nose in a dish' allows medics to test nasal sprays for effectiveness
24 October 2016 - This 'heart on a chip' could finally spell the end for animal testing
18 October 2016 - Could the iCHIP Bring an End to Animal Testing?
11 October 2016 - Bipolar Patients' Skin and Stem Cells Aid Global Research Initiative
20 July 2016 - Animal-Friendly Affinity Reagents: Replacing the Needless in the Haystack (animal-free antibodies)
9 June 2016 - Mathematical approach can help achieve optimal dosing for various drugs
19 May 2016 - Electronic Device Detects Molecules Linked to Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
5 May 2016 - Michigan researchers use 'kidney on a chip' device to measure effect of drug doses on kidney cells
2 May 2016 - Non-animal approach to predict impact of nanomaterials on human lung published Archives of Toxicology publishes workshop recommendations
8 March 2016 - The Next Step for Bioprinting: 3D Printing Skin
7 March 2016 - Person-on-a-chip': Engineers grow 3-D heart, liver tissues for better drug testing
16 February 2016 - These lab-grown 'mini-brains' could help replace animal testing this year
12 February 2016 - Johns Hopkins researchers create map of world's chemical landscape
8 January 2016 - University of California researchers produce insulin-producing pancreatic cells from human skin
29 December 2015 - Stem Cells Help Evaluate Experimental Alzheimer’s Drugs
14 December 2015 - Merz to start using alternative to cruel botulinum toxin mouse test
4 December 2015 - “Humans are not mice:” scientists use human cells to create a working model of a rare genetic disorder
18 November 2015 - Advancing animal testing alternatives
4 November 2015 - Developing a 3D organotypical model to assess skin and gum penetrating implant soft tissue outcomes and implant device development
29 October 2015 - Development of a first-choice non-sentient model for bipolar disorder molecular pharmacology research
21 October 2015 - Breakthrough in 3D stem cell printing promises alternative to animal drug testing
20 October 2015 - In Vitro Toxicity Testing Market Spurred by Animal Rights Consolidation, Expected to Reach US$4,114.1 Million by 2018: Transparency Market Research
14 October 2015 - New gel might eliminate the need for animals in breast cancer research
13 October 2015 - Application of a 3D 'all-human' blood brain barrier model in evaluating nanoparticle-facilitated drug delivery systems
8 October 2015 - Researchers grow kidney-like organs in laboratory
8 October 2015 - Advancing Alzheimer’s Research Without Animals (PCRM Report)
6 October 2015 - Living ‘mini-brains’ that cost just 25 cents could replace animal testing
23 September 2015 - Virtual human built from more than 5000 slices of a real woman
6 August 2015 - UOW scientists using 3D-printer to replicate brain tissue
4 May 2015 - BioBots Is A 3D Printer For Living Cells
22 April 2015 - These 3D printed organs beat just like your heart 
26 December 2014 - Biomedical team creates "Nerve on a chip"
5 June 2014 - How predictive and productive is animal research?
5 June 2014 - The Next Technology Wave:  Biologically Inspired Engineering>>
27 April 2014 - Animals spared in new cancer tests on cells
2 April 2014 -
Hurel Offers Early Alert for Side Effects
28 March 2014 - New device simulating human gut will save money, reduce testing on animals.
19 March 2014 - Scientists step in with new way to determine drug safety without using animals
12 March 2014 - Fur and Against: Scrutinizing the efficacy of animal testing and its alternatives
24 February 2014 - Protozoa Show Potential For Cosmetic Testing
1 January 2014 - Alternatives to Animal Testing Drive Market
27 December 2013 - How tiny ‘organs’ on microchips could replace mice and rats in medical research labs
21 Nov 2013 - Toxicity modelling could replace 'trial and error' animal testing
7 Nov 2013 - 3D-printed human cells could "replace animal testing"
23 Oct 2013 - Beating heart cells connect to circulation in O'Brien Institute research breakthrough
18 Oct 2013 - PETA and its international affiliates launch not-for-profit international science company
12 August 2013 - Harlan joins lab network looking for alternatives to animal testing
8 August 2013 - Hope for non-animal testing
2 August 2013 - Artificial skin instead of animal testing
29 July 2013 - Technology Should Replace Testing on Animals
24 July 2013 - New “artificial skin” product launched>
19 July 2013 - New Computational Method to Predict Toxicity of Chemicals
20 June 2013 - Working Group - a Portrait: PharmaInformatic
20 June 2013 - Scientists create first 3D digital brain
June 2013 - Body parts on a chip - TedX


[i] Federal Drugs Administration (US)

[ii] Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay

[iii] High performance liquid chromatography

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