The number of animals used in experimental scientific research has profoundly increased due to research and development in medical technologies. Judson reports that numerous experiments that require the use of animals every year are done in the entire world, thus threatening the lives of the animals used (Judson 11). The distress, pain and death cases encountered while experimenting on these animals has culminated into many debates on the need to use alternative methods to animal testing. Additionally, primary worries of animal testing are found on the ethical concerns. First of all, animal testing is costly, consumes time and requires skilled human resources. Therefore, the proposition to adopt alternatives is 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. Replacement is defined as the use of non-animal methods in scientific experimentation to replace animals. The reduction includes the methods that enable scientific researchers to obtain similar results using few animals. Finally, refinement is the technique that minimizes potential animal pain, distress, and even stuttering and, therefore, enhancement the overall animal welfare.
The animals 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-infectious disease through drug testing and toxicological screenings (Balls 7). These animals are also used to understand the effects of the medical and surgical experiments before they are performed on 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 animal testing.
Alternatives to Animal Testing
Different alternatives to replace animal testing procedures have been suggested by various scholars. Examples of the alternatives include computer simulation and in-vitro testing (Doke et al. 223). Alternatives to animal testing involved implementing other developments that could be used to avoid the utilization of animals in scientific testing. The need to seek alternatives to replace the use of animals is fueled by the widespread alarm for reducing the suffering animal experience during the procedures (Liebsch et al. 842).
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 (Doke et al. 224). 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 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, this experiment is essential (Mushtaq et al. 163). For example, 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 avoiding the test of biological chemicals that are unwanted. Therefore, the total number of animals used in the scientific experiments is significantly lowered by using composite simulation models.
Cell and Tissue Cultures in In-Vitro Testing
In-vitro testing is another method that significantly lowers the number of animals used in animal testing. The use of in-vitro cell and tissue cultures involves the utilization of growth cells outside the laboratory environment. These tissues and cells are obtained from the 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 humans or animals are grown as monolayers (Goh et al. 1299). The cellular composition of the tissue, such as enzymes and membrane fragments, are used in the experiments. Differently, 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 chemicals, cosmetics, and drugs go through in-vitro testing to determine their toxicity and efficacy level (Liebsch et al. 843).
Volunteer alternatives are another appropriate substitute method. The rapidness in technological advancement has significantly permitted the advancement of more sophisticated machines used to scan and record techniques that could be used to safeguard human volunteers’ lives (Doke et al. 226). Therefore, a call should be made for people to volunteer to be used as test subjects, mainly when they pass away.
Non-Invasive Imaging Techniques
Ethical concerns have posed restrictions in experimenting using the higher model vertebrates such as rats, genuine pigs, monkeys, and even rats (Doke et al. 225). Thus, non-invasive imaging techniques, such as MRIs and CT Scans, are alternative to animal testing. The methods posit less ethical questions compared to the use of animal testing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Alternatives
There are several positive and negative sides to using alternative methods of testing. Computer simulation is a faster method, giving reliable result as opposed to animal testing. Moreover, it is more environmentally friendly and involves no cruelty to animals. However, for instance, computer simulation requires highly trained personnel that could not be easily available or could be expensive. Computers and software are very expensive and require training and additional cost (Mushtaq et al. 163).
Similarly, the use of in-vitro as an alternative to animal testing gives more reliable results compared to all other methods. For example, Judson denotes that tests on hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and monkeys do not provide a genuine relationship between cancer and glass fiber (19). In-vitro testing experiments involve the use of human tissues and cells and thus provide reliable results. Moreover, the use of human tissues in toxicity experiments gives more accurate results than 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 a skilled workforce which could be expensive to find (Liebsch et al. 844).
The human volunteers and non-invasive imaging techniques, such as MRIs and CT Scans, are cost-effective, expedient and practical. Moreover, they save time in comparison to animal testing. Specifically, animal testing can take up to five years, while these measures only take few weeks. Moreover, non-invasive imaging techniques, such as MRIs and CT Scans, are cruelly free and more environmentally friendly (Doke et al. 226). 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. Besides, non-invasive imaging techniques have the disadvantage of requiring expensive equipment (Doke et al. 227). Therefore, in evaluating each alternative, information on the government regulations on every alternative is required. Besides, information on the importance that each method has to society is needed.
Appropriate Alternative Solution
From the four stipulate alternatives, the use of in-vitro testing is the most appropriate alternative because it yields the most accurate and reliable results among all the alternatives. The method uses human tissue and cells and thus give a genuine relationship to the variable under test, including the test for cancer. Three clinical trials are necessary steps in evaluating the alternatives. Phase I aims at determining the safety of the drug or the treatment of human beings. This process is performed through laboratory tests. Phase II includes determining 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 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 providing adequate data as a foundation for selling approval and determining whether the drug can be utilized at various phases of the disease.
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