I have seen the future of biotechnology and it is an animal-cruelty-free era. Over the weekend, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) gave its Henry J. Heimlich Award (he of the famed Heimlich maneuver) for Innovative Medicine to a researcher who spearheaded use of human tissue for drug testing and medical research.
Researcher Randal Charlton founded the company Asterand, which according to its website "supports human drug discovery and translational medicine through the provision of high-quality, well-characterized human biomaterials and preclinical research services. Therapeutic areas include rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, CNS diseases, and respiratory diseases. Samples are collected from a global network of hospitals according to standardized collection and ethical protocols."
Asterand uses lab-grown human tissues that are used to test drugs for humans, rather than animals ranging from mice and rats to primates. The beauty of the tests is that they produce much more reliable results while helping to bring promising new drugs to market much more quickly.
When you think about it, drug testing and research on animals are positively Neanderthal.
Since its inception some 50 years ago, the animal-testing industry has mushroomed. Not only are most lab animals confined to uncomfortable, depressing cages, they are also "disposed of" after the tests are concluded.
Rodents and primates possess very different forms of biochemistry from our own. Now that the model exists to test drugs on human cells, without harming a human being, why not use it? Critics say it's not at the cure-all stage yet, and human tissue testing may only limit the number of animals used for testing each year, without eliminating the practice.
PCRM describes itself as a "nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research."
Bravo for lauding efforts to help people and animals simultaneously.