Scientists have developed a method of testing Botox on cells in a petri dish rather than live animals. And this could be part of a larger move away from animal testing.
According to the LA Times, Botox producer Allergan Inc. developed the test over the last 10 years, and the FDA just approved it last month. If it's approved in other countries too, it could reduce Allergan's dependence on animal testing by 95%. Before you scoff at the notion of testing Botox on animals at all, remember that it's used not just for wrinkles but for 21 other conditions, and is being tested for more, including asthma. And Botox isn't the only drug scientists hope to begin testing in a dish rather than on a living thing — one molecular biologist is developing a way to test drugs on liver cells grown in special tunnels, while another team is working on a technique to test for birth defects on stem cells.
As the LA Times points out, scientists don't like experimenting on animals — in one survey, 78% said they wished they didn't have to. Even scientific jargon reflects discomfort with the practice — researchers often talk about "sacrificing" animals rather than simply killing them. This reflects an understanding that the death of an animal is a real loss — something that might surprise animal-rights advocates who assume that scientists are cold-hearted and uncaring. Animal experimentation also isn't always effective — according to the Times, it's only 50% accurate in predicting whether a drug will cause birth defects, meaning "toxicologists might as well flip a coin." Testing on cells in dishes isn't perfect — in some cases, scientists may need to follow up with animal tests to make sure that what's safe for isolated cells doesn't harm a living organism. But the new techniques could provide effective first-line testing, and accomplish something everybody wants: reducing the number of animals that die so that humans can live.
Botox Maker To Reduce Animal Testing [LA Times]
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