Alternatives to Animals: 2012 Developments

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Predicting Risk of Arrhythmias and Sudden Cardiac Death: There’s a Computer Model for That
Virtual Hearts Help Understand Real-world Patients
Dec. 12, 2012

A computer model of the heart wall predicted risk of irregular heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death in patients, paving the way for the use of more complex cardiac models to calculate the consequences of genetic, lifestyle and other changes to the heart.

Authors of the new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, say this is the first report of cardiac modeling being used as an arrhythmic risk predictor for patients.

“This is a strong proof-of-principle study showing that computer simulation can be used to predict risk of cardiac arrhythmias, ” said Coeli M. Lopes, Ph.D., lead study author and assistant professor at the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “With this model we can determine the influence of a single mutation on the much bigger overall response of the heart.”

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€50-million project aims to produce 1,500 stem-cell lines for drug discovery
Dec. 5 2012

A collective of academic and industry players is planning to create 1,500 induced pluripotent stem-cell lines from 500 patients to push forward drug discovery in areas such as diabetes, dementia and pain.

The StemBANCC project, managed by the University of Oxford, UK, and including 10 drug companies and 23 academic institutions, is backed by €26 million from the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiative and €21 million of ‘in-kind’ contributions from the European pharmaceutical industry. Over five years it will derive three induced pluripotent stem-cell lines from skin and blood samples taken from 500 patients that it hopes to enrol in the project. It will make these cells available to other researchers, and use them within the project to develop new tools for drug development.

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Scottish scientists hail artificial liver breakthrough
Nov. 11 2012

Scotland on Sunday has learned that a team at Heriot-Watt University is using the cells to build liver tissue which will become a testing platform for drugs to treat a range of illnesses. It is hoped that the development of artificial livers will reduce and ultimately replace the need to test medicines on animals.

Will Shu, a lecturer in micro-engineering who is leading the research, said: “The medical benefits could be enormous. Artificial human liver tissues could be very valuable to drug development because they mimic more closely the response of drugs on humans, helping to select safer and more efficient drug candidates.”

With the human cells, the Scottish scientists are working to create miniature human ­liver tissues and have already developed a process known 
as “livers-on-a-chip” which “prints” the cells in 3D onto testing surfaces.

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Organ-on-a-Chip Mimics Deadly Lung Condition
The organ-mimicking microdevice may one day reduce the need for animal testing.
Nov. 7, 2012

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have shown that their “lung-on-a-chip” technology can mimic a life-threatening lung condition. They also report that scientists can uncover new aspects of the disease using the lung chip that would not be found with animal experiments.

The study, published in today’s Science Translational Medicine, is the first definitive demonstration that the institute’s organ-mimicking chips, which include a gut, a heart, and a kidney (see “Building an Organ on a Chip”), can be used to model a disease and even test candidate drugs.

The lung-on-a-chip device is a clear, flexible thumb-sized block of polymer perforated by two tiny channels separated by a thin membrane. Air flows through one channel, which is lined with human lung cells; a nutrient-rich liquid that acts as a blood substitute flows through the other, which is lined with blood-vessel cells. A vacuum applied to chip moves the channels to re-create the way human lung tissues physically expand and contract when breathing.

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Computational Medicine Begins to Enhance the Way Doctors Detect and Treat Disease
Nov. 1, 2012

Computational medicine, a fast-growing method of using computer models and sophisticated software to figure out how disease develops–and how to thwart it–has begun to leap off the drawing board and land in the hands of doctors who treat patients for heart ailments, cancer and other illnesses. Using digital tools, researchers have begun to use experimental and clinical data to build models that can unravel complex medical mysteries.

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New Cell Test Will Help Save Rabbits From Severe Eye Irritation Experiments
Oct. 24, 2012

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), an economic alliance of 34 industrialized countries, has adopted a new validated non-animal test method that can be used to asses chemicals for severe eye irritation and corrosion instead of subjecting rabbits to having chemicals dripped in their eyes. The cell-based Fluorescein Leakage Test, while not a 1:1 replacement for the rabbit test, can be used as part of a step-wise strategy to considerably reduce the number of animals subjected to eye irritancy testing.

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