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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Comment: The Feasibility of Replacing Animal Testing for Assessing Consumer Safety: A Suggested Future Direction

Julia Fentem, Mark Chamberlain and Bart Sangster

At present, we are unable to use much of the data derived from alternative (non-animal) tests for human health risk assessment. This brief Comment outlines why it is plausible that new paradigms could be developed to enable risk assessment to support consumer safety decisions, without the need to generate data in animal tests. The availability of technologies that did not exist 10 years ago makes this new approach possible. The approach is based on the concept that data and information derived from applying existing and new technologies to non-animal models can be interpreted in terms of harm and disease in man. A prerequisite is that similar data and information generated in a clinical setting are available to permit this “translation”. The incorporation of this additional translation step should make it possible to use data and information generated in non-animal models as inputs to risk assessment. The new technologies include genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabonomics. Their application to in vitro and human “models” enables large amounts of data to be generated very quickly. The processing, interpretation and translation of these data need to be supported by powerful informatics capabilities and statistical tools. The use of integrated “systems biology” approaches will further support the interpretation by providing better understanding of the underlying biological complexity and mechanisms of toxicity. Clinical medicine is using the opportunities offered by the new ’omics’ technologies to advance the understanding of disease. The application of these technologies in clinical medicine will generate massive amounts of data that will need processing and interpretation to allow clinicians to better diagnose disease and understand the patients’ responses to therapeutic interventions. Support from clinical epidemiology will be essential. If these data and information can be made generally accessible in an ethical and legal way, they should also permit the “translation” of experimental non-animal data, so that they can then be used in risk assessment.