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‘Human-on-a-chip’ could end animal testing

Sean D. Hamill: ‘She was just another beagle that Lawrence Vernetti had scheduled to take part in another drug experiment… “I don’t know why” the beagle caught his attention, he said recently during an interview in his office at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is associate professor of computational and systems biology. “But when you do work with them, you can develop a connection. I did with her, and after that I stopped wanting to work with animals.” Plagued by his emotional tie to the unnamed beagle but wanting to continue to work at Abbott, he proposed to his supervisor that they begin an in vitro research lab that would use cells or bacteria, instead of animals, to test drugs… The company agreed. After a couple of years establishing the lab, Mr. Vernetti entered a nascent field that now, nearly a quarter-century later, is building support across research and industry for reasons that go beyond the compassion of avoiding experimentation on animals…

Drug companies and others who have used animals for pre-human testing of drugs and other chemicals have known for a long time that results with animals were a poor predictor of their effect on humans.One study found that animal testing is only reliable 70 percent of the time in determining the basics of whether a drug or chemicals would be toxic to humans. But finding a way to replace animal testing seemed daunting — despite the work of Mr. Vernetti and others on using cells. But over the past decade, the field has begun developing human “microphysiological systems.” The field is sometimes referred to as “organ-on-a-chip” or the larger goal of “human-on-a-chip”… The theory is that the cells can show the reaction to drugs or chemicals — which are pumped into the chip — in the same way a working organ in an animal or human would’. SOURCE…

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