The new law gives labs the opportunity to use tissue models instead of animals
For years, animals have been used in the testing of drugs and food to make sure the products were save to use for humans. Now, a new law might put an end to animal testing. President Biden has recently signed a law that doesn’t require labs to test on animals anymore.
Before the new law was in place, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required new medication to be tested on animals before the labs could move on to human trials. Companies were required to test their products on a rodent species and on a non-rodent species, like a monkey or dog. This causes companies to test on tens of thousands of animals every year. Now the new law, that was signed in December, lifts the requirement for animal testing. This means that even though labs can still use animals for testing, they do not have to.
The chief scientist of the FDA says that they want to try and get rid of all animal testing. “We support alternative methods that are backed by science and provide the necessary data showing whether products are safe and effective,” Namandjé Bumpus told Science. “We continue to encourage developers working on alternative methods to present their work to the FDA.”
According to Wired, researchers have been wanting to move away from animal testing. Paul Locke, scientist and lawyer at Johns Hopkins University, told the website: “We have many important drugs that have been developed using animal tests. But as we get into some of these more difficult diseases, especially neurological diseases, the animal models just aren’t serving us as well.” One of the alternatives to animal testing are so called ‘organs-on-chips’. These are small chips that contain human cells. They mimic certain human body functions like blood flow. Researchers have been working to develop different kinds of chips that simulate different kinds of functions. Like the liver, stomach, brain, skin and more. Those chips can be used to test the effects of drugs and toxins.
Even though these changes seem promising it does not mean that animal testing is completely off the table right away. Aysha Akhtar, a neurologist and president and CEO of the Center for Contemporary Sciences told Wired: “The decision is still up to the FDA to decide whether the method was adequate and whether to allow the drug to continue through the pipeline.” Akhtar expects that new methods of testing will be used. But probably in addition to animal testing instead of as a replacement.