The pharmaceutical and chemical industries have long relied on animal testing to determine the safety and efficacy of new drugs. However, this practice is not only ethically questionable, but also time-consuming and costly. Fortunately, there is a groundbreaking solution in development – the LIFESAVER Project utilises a new “biodigital twin” system with a high biofidelity for regulatory, societal, healthcare and industry approval. Considering that premature birth kills one baby every thirty seconds worldwide, this technology currently being developed is not only going to be saving animals, it will ultimately save babies too.
This project is therefore leading the way towards a cruelty-free and more effective approach.
The Unseen Consequences of Animal Testing in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Animal testing has long been a staple in the pharmaceutical industry, but the true repercussions of this practice are often hidden from view. Whilst the intention behind using animals as test subjects is to ensure the safety and efficacy of new drugs, the ethical and moral implications cannot be ignored.
One major consequence of animal testing is the immense suffering inflicted upon the animals themselves. Rabbits, mice, and monkeys are subjected to painful experiments, often involving the testing of toxic substances or the administration of potentially lethal doses of drugs. These innocent creatures endure tremendous pain and distress, without any say in the matter.
Furthermore, the use of animals in drug testing is not always a reliable indicator of human responses. There are countless examples of drugs that were deemed safe and effective in animal studies, only to cause harm or prove ineffective in human clinical trials. This disconnect between animal and human biology not only raises ethical concerns, but also poses significant risks to human health.
Throughout history, there have been documented instances of animal mistreatment in laboratory settings. PETA’s interactive timeline, titled Without Consent, showcases nearly 200 heartrending tales of unethical experiments. These include unsettling scenarios such as dogs subjected to prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, conscious mice undergoing surgical procedures, and cats who were induced with deafness, paralysis, and were subsequently drowned.
Additionally, animal testing is an expensive and time-consuming process. It can take years and millions of euros to develop a single drug, with a large portion of these costs going towards animal studies. This not only drives up the price of medications for consumers but also hinders the progress of medical advancements.
Therefore the unseen consequences of animal testing in the pharmaceutical industry are far-reaching. It is crucial that we recognise the ethical, scientific, and economic downsides of this practice and work towards finding more humane and efficient alternatives.
Here is the typical outline for how animals are used in pharma labs to test drugs:
- Ethical Clearance: Before starting any animal test, ethical clearance is obtained from relevant institutional bodies. Researchers need to prove that they are testing these drugs because there’s no alternative.
- Animal Selection: Once approval is given, researchers choose an appropriate animal model. Typically, these might be mice or rats, but can also include rabbits, guinea pigs, monkeys, or dogs depending on the specific research.
- Pre-clinical Studies: Animals are administered the drug at various dosages to observe their response, often through injection, food, or inhalation. Studies in vitro, meaning outside of the living organism in isolated cells, are typically conducted before moving to in vivo testing in a whole, living organism.
- Data Collection: Following drug administration, researchers track animal behavior, health, and physiological parameters. The type of data gathered can include weight, food and water intake, temperature, cardiovascular activity, as well as behavioral patterns and pathology
Potential Impact on Animal Rights and Pharma Industries
The potential impact of the LIFESAVER Project’s digital placenta on animal rights and the pharmaceutical industry is vast and profound. By eliminating the need for animal subjects, the LIFESAVER Project’s technology has the potential to greatly improve animal rights.In addition to its positive impact on animal welfare, the digital placenta has the potential to completely revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry. The LIFESAVER Project’s technology offers a more reliable and accurate method of drug testing than what is currently being used, ultimately benefiting human health and well-being.
Furthermore, the adoption of this innovative approach could lead to significant cost savings in the drug development process. By replacing animal studies with the digital placenta, the LIFESAVER Project’s technology could streamline the drug development process, resulting in more affordable medications for consumers.
The Lush Prize (which focuses on fighting animal testing and finding alternatives to animal experiments) commends and incentivizes both scientific and advocacy efforts aiming to cease or substitute animal testing, particularly within toxicology research. Since its inception in 2012 through 2022, the Lush Prize has bestowed £2.69 million upon 126 deserving recipients hailing from 35 countries, across every continent save Antarctica. This illustrious award is presented on a biennial basis.
Presenting a New Paradigm
The way the sophisticated technology of the LIFESAVER Project works is quite remarkable. This placental model combines (perhaps for the first time in this combination) the physical part -in vitro – and a digital part – in silico. The physical part comprises an “on chip” system with microfluidic circuits representing maternal and fetal blood flows where different substances can be injected and their distribution from mother to fetus can be analysed. The software part comprises several computer models which communicate with the in vitro part, analyse the data and can be used for interpolation and prediction. Altogether this will allow more precise risk
estimation of effect of different chemicals and drugs in pregnancy.
This paradigm shift has far-reaching implications. Not only does it spare countless animals from unnecessary suffering, but it also addresses the limitations and inconsistencies of animal testing. By harnessing the power of AI and bioprinting, the LIFESAVER Project offers a more reliable and ethical alternative that holds the potential to save both time and money in the drug development process.
The LIFESAVER Project represents a beacon of hope in an industry that has long relied on outdated and problematic practices. By embracing this innovative approach, we can pave the way towards a cruelty-free future, where drugs are tested in a way that truly reflects their impact on human health. With the LIFESAVER Project leading the charge, a new era of drug testing is on the horizon, one that is more humane, efficient, and scientifically rigorous.
To view the components of this technology, check out this video:
Read more about this project here.