Because of the advancement of research and development in medical technologies, the number of animals used in experimental scientific research has risen dramatically. According to Judson, numerous experiments requiring the use of animals are carried out every year around the world, putting the animals’ lives in jeopardy (Judson 11). Many debates have erupted over the need to use alternative methods to animal testing as a result of the distress, pain, and death cases encountered while experimenting on these animals. Animal testing is expensive, time-consuming, and requires skilled labor. Therefore, the proposition to adopt alternatives is also aimed at overcoming the drawbacks of animal testing. The animal testing alternative strategy is driven at addressing the three Rs which are reduction, replacement, and refinement. The first R which is replacement defined as the use of non-animal methods in the scientific experimentation to replace the animals. The second R denotes reduction which includes the methods that will enable scientific researchers to obtain similar results with the use of few animals. The last R refers to refinement which is the technique that minimizes potential animal pain, distress, and even stuttering and therefore, enhancement the overall animal welfare.
The animals that are mainly used in the experiments include guinea pigs, birds, rabbits, mice, rats and others. The underlying purpose that drives the use of these animals in the experiments is the need for developing new treatments for both infectious and non-infections disease through drug testing and toxicological screenings (Balls 7). These animals are also used to gain an understanding of the effects of the medical and surgical experiments before they are performed on the humans. This paper will explore the alternatives that could be used in animal testing. It will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of every alternative and suggest an appropriate solution to the problem of animal testing.
Alternatives to Animal Testing
Different alternatives to replace the animal testing procedures have been suggested by various scholars. Examples of the alternatives include computer simulation and the in-vitro testing. Alternatives to animal testing involved the implementation of other developments that could be used to avoid utilization of animals in scientific testing. The need to seek for alternatives to replace the use of animals is fueled by the widespread alarm for the need of reducing the number of animals that suffer due to animal testing
The use of computer models could significantly assist in reducing the number of animals used in the experiments. Computers can be utilized in understanding different necessary pieces of biology. Specialized computer software and models programs are significant in helping to design new types of medicine. Computer generated simulations are essential in predicting the various possible toxic and biological impacts of a potential drug or chemical component without the necessity of using animals. With the use of the computer simulation, the molecules that are only promising are obtained from the primary screening and eventually used in the in-vitro experimentation. For instance, for a researcher to know the receptor binding site of a given medicine, these experiment is essential. Computer software called “Computer Aided Drug Design (CADD)” is profoundly utilized in the prediction of the receptor binding sites in potential drug molecules (Balls 13). These computer software work in the identification of binding sites and helps in a voiding the test of biological chemicals that are unwanted. Therefore, the total number of animals used in the scientific experiments is significantly lowered through the use of composite simulation models.
Cell and tissue cultures in in-vitro testing
This is another method that can significantly lower the number of animals used in animal testing. The use of in-vitro cell and tissue cultures involve the utilization of growth cells that are outside the laboratory environment. These tissues and cells are obtained from skin, liver and even brain of animals and later kept in a suitable medium for growth for some time before they are used. The in-vitro cell and culture of human or animal are grown as a monolayer. The cellular composition of the tissue like enzymes and membrane fragments are used in the experiments. Differently, types of culture such as callus culture, cell culture, organ culture and tissue culture are utilized for various purposes. Preliminary screening of potential molecules and chemicals of drug utilize this methodology to detect efficacy and toxicity. Notably, many of the chemicals, cosmetics, and drugs go through in-vitro testing in determining their toxicity and efficacy level.
Volunteer alternatives are also appropriate substitute method. The rapidness in the technological advancement has significantly permitted the advancement of more sophisticated machines that are used to scan and record techniques which could be used to safeguard the life of human volunteers. Therefore, a call should be made for people to volunteer to be used as test subjects particularly when they die.
Non-Invasive imaging techniques like MRIs and CT Scans
Ethical concerns have posed restrictions in experimenting using the higher model vertebrates such as rats, genuine pigs, monkeys, and even rats. Thus, the use of Non-Invasive imaging techniques like MRIs and CT Scans is an alternative to animal testing. The method possesses, less ethical questions compared to the use of animals.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Alternatives
The computer simulation is a method is faster and gives the reliable result as opposed to animal testing. It is also environmentally friendly and has no cruelty to animals. However, the use of computer simulation requires highly trained personnel that could not be easily available or could be expensive. The equipment such as computers and software to be used in this alternative testing are very expensive and require training and thus additional cost. The use of in-vitro as an alternative to animal testing gives more reliable results compared to the all other methods. For example, Judson denotes that animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and monkeys do not provide a genuine relationship between cancer and glass fiber (Judson 19). In vitro testing, experiments involve the use of human tissues and cells and thus provide reliable results. Also, the use of the human tissues in toxicity experiments gives the more accurate result as opposed to animals. The advantage that comes with the use of this technique as an alternative to animal testing includes the easiness to follow, less time consuming and it is less expensive. Other advantages that come with the use of the alternative measure include efficiency in time, cost effectiveness and the use of less workforce. However, in-vitro testing requires skilled manpower which could be expensive to find.
The human volunteers and the use of non-invasive imaging techniques like MRIs and CT Scans are cost effective, expedient and practical. They also save on time, unlike animal testing which could take a longer time to finding an answer. Animals can take up to five years while these non-animal measures only take few weeks. The non-invasive imaging techniques like MRIs and CT Scans are also cruel free and more environmental friendly. In tests involving animals, many are killed and disposed of raising environmental concerns. The problem with human volunteers is that people could not be willing to volunteer their tissues for use in the testing. Also, non-invasive imaging techniques have the disadvantage where they require equipment which are expensive to purchase. In evaluating each alternative, information on the government regulations on every alternative is required. Besides, information on the importance that each method has to the society is needed.
Appropriate Alternative Solution
From the four stipulate alternatives, the use of the in vitro testing is the most appropriate alternative. This is because the method yields the most accurate and reliable results among all the alternatives. The method uses human tissue and cells and thus give genuine relationship to the variable under test including the test for cancer. Three clinical trials are necessary steps in evaluating the alternatives. These include phase I, II, and III. Phase I aims at determining the safety of the drug or the treatment of the human beings. This will be done through laboratory tests. Phase II will include the determination of whether the drug works using the alternative and the last phase will encompass finding out how effective the drug is compared to the currently available drugs in the market. A conclusion will then be arrived at on whether the drug can be used or not. The evaluation procedure will also be driven at assessing the likely side effects of the drug and focus on the efficacy of the drug. Necessary adjustments to the alternative include the provision of adequate data as a foundation for selling approval and determination of whether the drug can be utilized at various phases of the disease.
Balls, Michael. “Replacement Of Animal Procedures: Alternatives In Research, Education And Testing.” Laboratory Animals, vol 28, no. 3, 1994, pp. 193-211. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1258/002367794780681714.
Judson, Karen. Animal Testing. New York, Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2006,.