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Challenge-Funded Research Studies Animal Testing Alternative

Gerbil (Norlando Pobre/Flickr)Research at University of Southampton in the U.K. will study in-vitro alternatives for testing the toxicity of drug candidates on animals. The U.K.’s National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) awarded £500,000 ($US 800,400) for the study from its 2011 CRACK IT challenge seeking alternatives to tests with lab animals.

The research, led by immunochemistry professor Martin Glennie, aims to test a range of drugs called monoclonal antibodies to find a way of predicting their toxicity in patients. The project, scheduled to begin in June, is expected to develop a system of in-vitro (literally “in glass”) assays that can accurately predict immune responses to these drugs.

Glennie, joined by immunology colleagues Tony Williams at Southampton and Mark Coles at University of York, will investigate the ability to measure the release of molecules called cytokines from lymphocytes, a type of blood cells. Cytokines are proteins that are released when lymphocytes are activated and cause the toxicity from monoclonal antibodies. Reactions from cytokines can range from mild colds to inflammation in major organs.

The research is needed, says Glennie, to find more accurate and precise ways of uncovering potential drug toxicity, as well as avoiding tests on lab animals. “Animal testing remains the industry standard for predicting patient toxicity,” notes Glennie, “but it can underestimate or even miss the levels of toxicity observed in the first-in-human trials, as we saw with the TGN1412 trials in 2006.” The TGN1412 trials, conducted in London, saw six healthy volunteers experience severe adverse reactions, including multiple organ failure, to a clinical drug that had been tested on animals with no effects.

The study is funded by the 2011 CRACK IT challenge, sponsored by NC3Rs. The challenge funded five projects in the U.K., each with industry co-sponsors. Glennie’s study is co-sponsored by Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Read more: Consortium Develops Virtual Mouse for Lab Testing

Photo: Norlando Pobre/Flickr

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