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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Human Tissue for In Vitro Research as an Alternative to Animal Experiments: A Charitable “Honest Broker” Model to Fulfil Ethical and Legal Regulations and to Protect Research Participants


Wolfgang E. Thasler, Thilo Schlott, Arno Kalkuhl,Thomas Plän,2Bernhard Irrgang, Karl-Walter Jauch, and Thomas S. Weiss

Research with human tissue offers the possibility not only of improving preclinical pharmaceutical research and safety assessment, but also of the substitution of some animal experiments. Surgically removed human tissue is discarded after pathological evaluation. This tissue would be of enormous value for research, especially in the pharmaceutical branch, if it were readily available in an ethically and legally approved manner. But there are public concerns about the use of human tissue, especially for “commercial” purposes, such as in the pharmaceutical industry. The question is whether the ethical boundaries are sufficiently respected in the course of striving for industrial profit. To overcome this problem, a clear procedure for tissue donation, collection, supply and allocation must be established, which is guaranteed to be independent of special interests. The persisting problem seems to be the lack of an authority which asks for informed consent, coordinates tissue as well as blinded data collection, and supplies research facilities with tissue samples in a transparent manner. Therefore, a charitable, state-controlled foundation acting as an “honest broker” was initiated, to cover the ethical and legal aspects, as well as to protect the research participants in their use of human tissue as an lternative to animal experiment