Over the years, new products have been substantiated. These products consist of medicines, cosmetics, and the like. Humans benefit from these products but how were these products succumbed and at what cost? Animals are being tortured for information for the benefit of mankind. They are being kept away not only from nature but also from their families to be tormented. Animal rights groups have surfaced throughout the years, protecting the lives of innocent animals from experiments. Below are some facts about how experimentation on animals is torturous:
“1. Over 100 million animals are burned, crippled, poisoned, and abused in US labs every year.
2. 92% of experimental drugs that are safe and effective in animals fail in human clinical trials because they are too dangerous or don’t work.
3. In tests of potential carcinogens, subjects are given a substance every day for 2 years. Others tests involve killing pregnant animals and testing their fetuses.
4. The reallife applications for some of the tested substances are as trivial as an “improved” laundry detergent, new eye shadow, or copycat drugs to replace a profitable pharmaceutical whose patent expired (Ethicsanimal ethics, n.d.).” “Animal replacement is defined as, ‘any scientific method employing nonsentient material which may replace use of conscious living vertebrates in animal experimentation’” (Doke & Dhawale, 2013). Animal testing has long been used for research on new products, but there are other means of establishing results other than testing products on animals. Scientists have come up with different alternatives for animal testing. Some of these alternatives, which are used in place of costly, inhumane experimentation on animals, are in vitro testing, in silico, and microdosing (Do alternatives exist, n.d.). Scientists were able to alter animal experimentation to make it more humane.
This process was later referred to as the three R’s, which stand for reduction, refinement, and replacement (Doke & Dhawale, 2013). Scientists used this means because of the torment done during animal experimentation, but quality had to be guaranteed. Reduction, which is the first step, is the process of lessening the number of animals to be used for animal experimentation. This is where scientists study the effects of the different body parts and organs in place of animal testing, thereby tests on animals are being substituted with tests on human cells and tissues. The next stage is refinement.
Doke and Dhawale (2013) acclaims that this is where scientists find the best way to diminish the pain, discomfort, and distress emanated by animals; it is also where improvement of habitation of research animals and improvement on the research are done (Hendriksen, 2009). Lastly, replacement is the final step in leading animal experimentation to be more humane. It is recommended that whenever possible, alternatives are to be used in place of animal testing (Doke & Dhawale, 2013). Using alternatives to animal testing is the best way of reducing the amount of laboratory animals kept in cages for research since it is using different means other than animals.
One alternative to the animal experimentation is in vitro testing. This is where a small amount of an animal’s body part (i.e. skin) will be tested in a test tube. Using special laboratory equipment, scientists are able to attain the same result without animal experimentation. With this test, experimentation on animals is being replaced with tissues and cells to predict any sort of reaction from humans to new medicines, cosmetics, and others (Feder, 2007). New technology has been developed especially for this test. These newlydeveloped equipment have the properties to mimic the human anatomy to be able to predict the results (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, n.d.). Although this test may be a great alternative, the process of conducting this experimentation is too complex to be used globally; but there are other means of animal testing alternative.
One of the disadvantages of using in vitro is that it does not decrease in the number of animals killed. Although in vitro uses only a small amount of an animal’s body part, it does not necessarily mean that theses animals are not killed. Important organs may be needed for testing, and to retrieve it, scientists would have to kill the animal. However, the advantages overpower the disadvantage in the sense that there are more benefits to it than harm. The costs of animal testing, depending on the system, is more expensive than in vitro. For example, in testing products for nongenetic cancer risk, animal testing costs $700,000, while in vitro testing costs $22,000 (Humane Society International, n.d.).
One of the human tissues are often more reliable, in the sense that it is more accurate in predicting the reaction of humans, than animal tissues, make the cost. This is because there are only similarities when using animal cells, meaning that although some animals and humans may be alike in body functions and organs, it does not necessarily mean that humans will react the same way as animals do (New England AntiVivisection Society, n.d.). The results of these tests also take a shorter amount of time as compared to animal testing.
Another alternative to animal testing is in silico testing. In silico is a test ran using a computer or simply, a computer simulation. In other terms this means, “Integration of modern computing and information technology with molecular biology to improve agency prioritization of data requirements and risk assessment of chemicals” (The United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2003). The word in silico was first introduced to the people by a mathematician named Pedro Miramontes in his report dubbed as “DNA and RNA Physicochemical Constraints, Cellular Automata and Molecular Evolution; wherein he defined it as a way to perform experiments using a computer (Autoimmunity Research Foundation, n.d.).
In silico testing was discovered because of the incorporation of technology in the performance of experiments in today’s modern world. It is the newest possible way of gaining knowledge among other methods. It is often used in toxicology wherein it determines the reaction of the human body to a drug that is being introduced whether it will be considered as a toxin or not (Raunio, 2011). It is considered as another effective alternative because it targets the specific processes that are needed in the experimentation so that no additional trials will be made (Doke & Dhawale, 2013). Amidst its popularity in the scientific community because of its advantages, some people are still doubtful in the efficiency and reliability when it comes to the results that it yields.
People question in silico testing mainly because it is mostly ran by the computer systems and not the human itself. In silico testing is a complex kind of experiment because much preparation is needed; one has to devote time in installing the computer codes and maintenance of the system in order for the experiment to yield a minimal and acceptable percentage error (What is ‘in silico’ experimentation?, n.d.). The introduction of such experiment also needs additional knowledge for the scientists for them to configure and properly operate these computer systems; with such complexity present in this kind of experiment, scientists who have backgrounds in operating computer systems are the only ones capable in conducting in silico experiments (What is ‘in silico’ experimentation?, n.d.).
Despite all these disadvantages, there are still advantages to in silico testing. According to Arora et al. (2011), this mode of experimentation reduces the animals that are being used in animal testing making it a more humane method. In a software called Computer Aided Drug Design, it evaluates whether a drug will interact to a specific binding site and prohibits from undergoing in vivo confirmatory test on drugs that exhibit no biological activity (Doke and Dhawale, 2013). It makes the setup more reliable in the sense that it is more consistent since variables can be controlled unlike in in vivo testing wherein the health status of an animal shall be taken into consideration because it can affect the outcome of the experiment.
In silico testing can also make the translation of the collected data safer and more efficient. Experiments that undergo in silico testing can produce results faster as compared to other means which could take a lot of months or even years just for the results to be available (Arora et al., 2011). Eventually, in silico testing is a feasible alternative to animal testing because it considers the animals being used in the experiment, it controls all the variables present in the experiment, eradicating the presence of dependent variables and collects experimental results in a faster and systematic process.