FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) is pleased to see publication of the paper Animal-friendly affinity reagents: Replacing the needless in the haystack.

The opinion paper highlights the somewhat hidden cost to animal lives in the production of animal-derived antibodies, which are used in a wide range of scientific and commercial areas. It argues that the animal-based techniques used are outdated and unnecessary as a suite of non-animal methods are available that should be adopted instead.

An antibody is a protein produced by the immune system to identify and neutralize biological agents that cause disease such as bacteria and viruses. Many people are unaware of how wide spread the use of antibodies is. Antibodies are the basis for many everyday over the counter products such as pregnancy tests and are used to monitor and diagnose infectious and chronic diseases. They are also a vital tool to safeguard the environment for example by measuring the level of pesticides in crops, and for the consumer industry where, for instance, they can be used to predict the safe limit of a potentially harmful ingredient in cosmetic products or control the quality of biological agents such as vaccines.

Despite their essential role in numerous scientific and commercial areas most people would not associate antibodies with animal experimentation, yet this multi-billion dollar industry uses many thousands of animals to create millions of antibodies. The paper argues that non-animal antibody production methods create high quality antibodies that can not only replace those made using animals but are of superior quality. European Directive 2010/63/EU, which lays down the rules on animals used for scientific purposes, asserts that ‘wherever possible a scientifically satisfactory method or testing strategy, not entailing the use of live animals, shall be used instead of a procedure (on animals)’. Therefore, the authors argue that the continued use of the animal-based antibody production techniques goes against the principles of the law and should be replaced with the non-animal methods. They also make other recommendations relating to increasing awareness of the issue and improving accessibility to the non-animal techniques.

The authors of the paper are seeking comments on the recommendations made and the questions that the issue raises through a LinkedIn.com group forum.

A summary version of the paper also appeared in Science Letters and can be viewed here.

FRAME supports the recommendations made in the paper and will be working with the lead organisation AFABILITY to help progress them.

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