Could This 3D-Printed Chip Put An End To Animal Testing?

Thousands of animals suffer in early-stage drug testing each year


3 Minutes Read

Beagles in an animal testing facility A new 3D-printed chip could help bring about the end of animal testing - Media Credit: Lukas Vincour / Zvířata Nejíme / We Animals Media

A 3D-printed chip developed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh could end the need for animal testing, according to a new report.

The unique 3D-printed “body-on-chip” device mimics precisely how a medicine flows through a patient’s body. It could therefore speed up drug development and eliminate the need for animal testing, as reported by the Guardian.

Animals used for drug development

At present, thousands of animals suffer each year in the early stages of drug development. Despite this, most drugs tested on animals fail to show clinical benefits in humans.

Although animal testing has been shown to be inefficient, it is often a legal requirement in the pharmaceutical industry. In the UK, all new drugs must be tested on two mammals (a rodent and non-rodent) before human trials.

Animals including mice, rats, pigs, horses, dogs, snakes, owls, and sheeps* are common subjects of animal testing.

A sheep behind bars at an animal research facility
Roger Kingbird / We Animals Media The new 3D-printed chip could end the testing of new drug on sheep

3D-printed chip to end animal testing

The newly developed “body-on-chip” device is said to accurately simulate how medicines travel through the human body.

This pioneering device, made using advanced 3D-printing technology, has been hailed as the first of its kind in the world. It consists of five compartments that represent major human organs – the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and brain. Crucially, these compartments are interconnected by channels that emulate the human circulatory system.

A key feature of this 3D-printed device is its integration with positron emission tomography (PET) scanning. This advanced imaging technique generates 3D visuals of the activities within the miniature organs.

More precise drug testing

The newly developed 3D-printed chip marks a significant advance in medical research. Not only does it offer a more ethical alternative to animal testing but it could also help improve efficiency. It was invented by the University of Edinburgh’s Liam Carr.

By closely replicating the human body’s responses, the “body-on-chip” device paves the way for more precise and efficient drug testing. The researchers expect this could revolutionize medicine development.

“This non-animal approach could significantly reduce cost of drug discovery, accelerate translation of drugs into the clinic, and improve our understanding of systemic effects of human diseases, by using models that are more representative to human biology than animal models,” Dr Adriana Tavares, Carr’s supervisor at Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science, told the Guardian.

*While the English language tends to refer to multiple sheeps as “sheep,” we use “sheeps” to emphasize their individuality

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