I will focus on In Vitro – animal testing as part of the science system, as my social issue. I chose this notion since I got exposed to a verity of animal testings during my studies and I even participated in a research that included bats as a model organism. I will discuss four different possible solutions and alternative and will analyze them according to Fogg MAT model.
Scientists in the US use approximately 11-25 million animals in research. The numbers are only an estimation since The AWA (Animal Welfare Act) does not cover rats, mice, fish and birds, which comprise around 95% of the animals used in research. Therefore, AWA does not obligate to provide the accurate number.
Why is that Important?
Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century – for both human and veterinary health. It allows the science as we know it.
Antibiotics, blood transfusions, organ transplantation, Insulin, and vaccinations are only a few of animal testing contributions. In addition, animal researchers obligated to treat animals humanely, both for the animals’ sake and to ensure reliable test results.
Why should we change that?
Even though institutes that use animal models are constrained by ethical committees, animal testing is very cruel and problematic. In research and testing, animals are subjected to experiments that can include everything from testing new drugs to infecting with diseases, poisoning for toxicity testing, burning skin, causing brain damage, implanting electrodes into the brain, maiming, blinding, and other painful and invasive procedures.
In addition, animals are very different from human beings. The anatomic, metabolic, and cellular differences between animals and people make animals poor models for human beings. This can affect on researchers results that were model animals as their represent for a human.
A lot of these experiments involving animals were flawed statistically. A 2009 peer-reviewed study found serious flaws in the majority of publicly funded US and UK animal studies using rodents and primates. 87% of the studies failed to randomize the selection of animals (a technique used to reduce “selection bias”) and 86% did not use “blinding” (another technique to reduce researcher bias). Since the majority of animals used in biomedical research are killed during or after the experiments, and since many suffer during the studies, the lives and well-being of a lot of animals are routinely sacrificed for poor research.
Last but not least, Animal testing is very expensive. These animals need to be feed, nursing them requires a lot of facilities and therefore a lot of money.
The first solution is suggested by PETA which stands for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and is the largest animal rights group in the world. Its slogan is “animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”. Their solution is to stop animal testings completely.
Ceasing animal testing will cause unbearable consequences from humanity. Giving up for all the advantages of animal testing, especially in a period in which the discovering the cure for cancer is right around the corner. And neurodegenerative disease became the biggest threat even though humans were able to increase the average lifespan. Therefore, this solution has a low motivation and it is very hard to execute.
The second alternative is fMRI which stands for functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This method of brain imaging enable a noninvasive procedure in animals and most importantly it enable to use human subjects.
However, fMRI also has its disadvantages. First, it is expensive. Second, in order for it to capture a clear image, the subject being scanned must stay completely still. And third, it does not enable to research in a signal cell resolution. Therefore, even though the motivation to use fMRI is high, it cost a lot and still can not replace electrophysiology experiments.
The third solution is computer modeling in which the overall goal is to develop algorithms that closely mimic the processes which actually take place in human tissues. Those models are being built based on in-vitro testing. Creating a liver model, for example, 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. These computational models will allow for reliable long-term predictions and thus help to replace animal testing in the long run.
The final solution and with the most potential is human organs on chips method which was developed by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
They developed a Lung-on-a-chip, a simulation of the biological processes inside the human lung. Lined with living human cells, the “organs-on-chips” mimic the tissue structures and mechanical motions of human organs, promising to accelerate drug discovery, decrease development costs and potentially usher in a future of personalized medicine.
This seems to be the perfect alternative for animal testing in terms of money and ethics. However, it has not been proven yet as a good enough solution. however, I am not sure that the chips can truly replace In-Vivo testing as tissues function and structure are very complex and hard to replicate. I assume that what made me skeptical will also affect on the science community’s motivation of using these organs’ chips. The organ on chips has not comprehensively tested.
The motivation for conducting animal testing is very high because of all its contributions, in addition to a low ability. Even though animal experiments are extremely expensive (as I mentioned before), scientists receive a lot of financial support to keep conducting them from the government and other wealthy organizations.
I believe that the way the research system is being conducted nowadays is very wasteful and not efficient and therefore needs to be chanded. Since there is no sufficient solution today that can completely replace animal testing I argue that the possible solution is reducing the amount of animals that are being used in scientific research.
By legalization and awareness make it harder to get animals for research. Complicating the process of permitting scientific procedures on animals will help researchers find other solutions.
Categories: Designing for Change