SCIENTIST WINS FRAME GRANT ALTERNATIVE TO ANIMAL TESTING

Issue date: 18 March 2004


ISSUE DATE: 18/03/04

A post doctoral scientist from the University of the West of England has been awarded a grant from the Fund for Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME). FRAME develops scientific alternatives to the use of animals thereby seeking to protect their welfare and recognises the need to reduce, refine and ultimately replace animal experiments, whilst pursuing science in an investigative manner.

Dr Alison Gray will use the 3-year fellowship, to progress her current research on the development of an airways model using cells grown in culture to examine the reaction to toxic chemicals. Dr Gray explains, “The use of alternatives to animals in biomedicine is an important area of research in academia and industry, both ethically and economically and therefore much research is focused on the development of new methods. The EU Directive on Standardised Testing Methods to determine the hazardous properties of chemicals (Annex V of Dir 67/548/EEC) already includes a number of tests that have reduced, refined or replaced animal testing and seeks to continue this trend. A good example is the skin corrosivity test where chemicals are applied to the skin of live rabbits and the severity of the injury is assessed by eye, the so called Draize test. This test has now been replaced with scientifically validated alternatives using commercially available human skin models.

“My own research is concerned with testing toxic compounds that may cause damage to the airways in a new cell culture model and using a technique that I developed during my PhD, to identify toxic compounds, such as those present in tobacco smoke, asbestos and other irritants, that induce a precancerous condition termed Squamous Metaplasia. To date, industry and other researchers have used animals to test the impact of inhaled compounds. My ultimate aim is to support pre-validation of alternative testing methods that can be used in place of current animal tests

Dr Gray continues “The big advantage of developing this kind of test, apart from reducing the reliance on animal testing, is that we will use ethically sourced human tissue and commercially available human cell lines. This should eliminate problems of species variation experienced by other researchers working on rats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other species. The new test should be cheaper, less time consuming and more relevant to predicting toxicity in humans.”

Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of the West of England, Professor Wendy Purcell said, “We are delighted to have this prestigious FRAME grant. Our Centre for Research in Biomedicine is now positioned as a leading research group in developing alternatives to animal testing. We are committed at UWE to developing alternatives and have already established novel models for testing new drugs on liver and brain that should avoid any need for industry to use live animals in testing. The grant brings us closer to our ultimate research goal of refining, reducing and ultimately replacing all unnecessary animal testing."

Professor Robert Combes, Director of FRAME, said, “FRAME is pleased to be collaborating with UWE and Dr Alison Gray on this important and exciting work”.

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