Improving the welfare of animals: Researchers develop computer-aided
models to replace animal testing
Cambridge, UK, 4th October 2013 – Every year, October 4 is all about the protection of animals. On World Animal Day, animal welfare organisations around the globe advocate the respectful treatment and welfare of animals. One of the central demands of the animal activists is to abolish animal testing and to use alternative testing methods instead. In this context, the European Union has taken a huge step forward at the beginning of this year: On March 11 a full ban on the marketing of cosmetics and hygiene products tested on animals entered into force in the EU.
The search for alternative testing methods for safety assessment is thus more pressing than ever. The development of such non-animal testing methods, especially when it comes to reliably predicting long- term toxic effects, represents a major scientific challenge.
To advance research in the field of alternative testing methods for long-term systemic toxicity, the Research Initiative SEURAT-1 was established in 2011. It stands for “Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing”. This initiative, comprising six research projects as building blocks, pursues a common strategy “towards the replacement of current repeated dose systemic toxicity testing in human safety assessment”. One of the SEURAT-1 research projects is NOTOX.
The NOTOX project significantly contributes to this endeavor by developing and validating predictive bioinformatics models characterizing long-term toxicity responses. These computer-aided models will help predict possible long-term toxic effects on the human body. In consequence, the use of living organisms to test the safety of substances to be found in daily-life products such as make-up, soap or toothpaste is no longer needed.
Computer-aided models as an alternative to animal testing
The liver is the central organ for the elimination of toxic substances in the human body. Therefore NOTOX scientists closely examine in test-tube experiments how such substances affect human liver cells in the long run. The processes and reactions they observe in the cells are being translated into highly complex computer models. The overall goal is to develop algorithms that closely mimic the processes which actually take place in human tissues when exposed to toxic substances. These computational models will allow for reliable long-term predictions and thus help to replace animal testing in the long run.
In order to achieve this ambitious goal, NOTOX brings together eleven internationally renowned and interdisciplinary research teams from all over Europe, including academic research laboratories and four small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
Cambridge Cell Networks is part of this project, involved in the knowledge extraction from the legacy publication, tools for modeling of biological pathways and integration of the data generated by the experimental partners.