Friday, June 5, 2009

Using Human Tissues to Reduce Need for Animal Research

After researching one chapter in Culture of Death and a whole book for A Rat Is A Pig Is A Dog Is A Boy, I am utterly convinced of the need for animal research in the quest to find treatments for disease and otherwise ameliorate human (and animal) suffering. But that doesn’t mean it is an activity we should relish. When and if we can obtain the needed information or knowledge without using animals, we should–so long as we don’t replace animal research with unethical investigations on human subjects--a potential problem I discussed regarding this story today over at Secondhand Smoke. Indeed, that is the point of the bioethical concept “The Three Rs,” an abbreviation for, “reduce, replace, refine.”

Now, biotechnology may be finding ways to replace animal research with experiments on human tissues, thereby also promoting the reduce and refine aspects of the Three Rs. From the story:

The use of animal experiments could be replaced by research on “virtual human beings” and tests on banks of living cells within a generation, scientists say. Computer modelling and advances in cell biology will allow researchers to assess new drugs far more precisely and without the involvement of animals. One innovation is the development of “micro-lungs” — lung cells extracted from transplant tissue, grown in a laboratory culture and then tested with drops of toxicants such as cosmetics to assess the response. return false;

I doubt that we will ever be able to totally end animal research because sometimes, you need to study the impact on the entire organism, not just discreet parts of the animal. For example, animal research discovered that embryonic stem cells cause tumors when injected into the body. Merely injecting the cells into a mini lung might not have developed the same information.

Still, the Three Rs are important, an ongoing example of the moral duties that flow from human exceptionalism.

No comments:

Post a Comment