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Nanosensors Could Help Reduce Laboratory Animal Testing

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-bunnies? dept.

Technology 51

cylonlover writes "Animal testing is an area that elicits strong feelings on both sides of the argument for and against the practice. Supporters like the British Royal Society argue that virtually every medical breakthrough of the 20th century involved the use of animals in some way, while opponents say that it is not only cruel, but actually impedes medical progress by using misleading animal models. Whatever side of the argument researchers fall on, most would likely use an alternative to animal testing if it existed. And an alternative that reduces the need for animal testing is just what Fraunhofer researchers hope their new sensor nanoparticles will be."

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Interesting development... (4, Insightful)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667004)

Even if you disagree with animal rights, This would be a very cost effective way to test theories. A sensor doesn't need food, water or shelter. And if you remove those factors, development costs go down.

Re:Interesting development... (5, Informative)

Meeni (1815694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667060)

This is indeed the proof that animal testing is necessary. It is goddamn expensive. Nobody does it for fun, or out of sheer cruelty. It costs money, and would be avoided if possible, for simple economical reasons.

Stupid personal story: my wife once bought a cosmetic that touted not being tested on animals. She got a severe rash using it... She now buys the one that are indeed tested on animals instead of customers.

Re:Interesting development... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38667218)

Well they lied: it was tested on animals. Just happened to be that your wife was one of them :(

Re:Interesting development... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668310)

Most likely, they lied twice: The final product was tested on customers and the ingredients were almost certainly tested, on animals, prior to general availability, just not tested in this particular combination... You can put your "cruelty free" sticker on the box without reference to your supply chain.

Re:Interesting development... (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667294)

That's more true with some animals than others. Anything that uses primates is expensive as hell, but mice are cheap; laboratories go through literally millions of them per year (estimates are around 50 million/year for the U.S.), and spend less on them than on even the grad students.

Now a reusable sensor has the advantage that it can be cleaned and reused (depending on the design), so there may not need to be 50 million sensors to replace 50 million mice. But the per-unit cost they'll have to match to compete with the quite cheap/disposable mice is still a pretty daunting design/manufacturing challenge.

Re:Interesting development... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668224)

Some mice are more expensive than others. Your basic boring brown ones are pretty damn cheap, as are common research variants.

A bit of poking around on the expensive side of the menu [jax.org] though, and you can end up paying north of $200/mouse, plus any additional costs for special requests.

Of course, since this sensor widget is designed to be used in tissue cultures, you'll end up paying extra for exotic genomes whether in goo form or in mouse form(on the other hand, the instruments/diagnostics/dissection/whatever tests done on the mice also aren't necessarily cheap, depending on what you are testing for).

Re:Interesting development... (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#38678498)

I don't know if you would call $10,000 for a male and female mouse very cheap. Off course those are the variants that are genetically modified to develop a certain degenerative disease but they are still expensive - of course they breed so fast it's worth the investment. We are also housing a colony that can literally be scared to death.

Taking care of them also costs a lot of money as does the security measures to keep people like PETA out.

Re:Interesting development... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38678662)

Mice are not cheap (don't forget the animal care either - that $100 cheap mouse isn't just $100) unless your lab has grants that pull-in five figures a year (many don't). Many labs find it more economical to breed their own mice which is something the grad students/lab techs do (rich labs can just buy them as they need them).

Do you realize how awful that is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38667494)

Your wife—like many others—is forcing misery and pain on conscious, sentient animals so she can do something so trivial and superficial as wear makeup. Great priorities people have.

Re:Do you realize how awful that is? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667786)

how conscious and sentient is a rodent? probably a little conscious and not sentient at all.

Re:Do you realize how awful that is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38667876)

Rodents are sentient, humans are sapient, and I am pedantic.

Re:Do you realize how awful that is? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667992)

no, that is only the hypothesis of animal rights activists, and also some (unscientific) lawmakers. it is an assumption without proof

Re:Do you realize how awful that is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38668520)

The comment was pedantically referring to how people tend to use "sentient" when they mean "sapient".

Re:Do you realize how awful that is? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668226)

And the rodents do look more attractive with makeup.

Criteria. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38668388)

Great, now let me turn that around.

How conscious and sentient are you? For all I know, when I prod you, cut you, and subject you to harsh chemicals, any given reaction you make is just a mindless stimulus response. Mere reflexes that, in some cases, may aid in your self-preservation. Luckily, for me, these can be ignored, and I can go about my experiments.

You have no way to prove that you actually feel anything, or have any real desire to survive and prosper. All I need to do is file you under some arbitrary categorization, then I am ethically free to dispose of you however I wish.

Re:Criteria. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671248)

Since there is no God, you're all soulless meatbags engaging merely in involuntary biochemical responses. Which makes torture amoral.

Empathy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38673258)

Except that our biologically wired empathetic responses are what cause us to engage in cooperative and moral behaviors. When these are suppressed, there is cause for alarm.

Re:Do you realize how awful that is? (1)

landofcleve (1959610) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668350)

So the cosmetic was an easy target for that kind of rebuttal, but it would be elementary to not automatically recognize all the things that are NOT superficial(in your opinion)where the stakes are much higher than personal appearance i.e. cancer drugs, antivirals, antibiotics, etc. Check the elevation of animals to the value of humans at the door please.

rats != humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38668532)

Even when they test on animals, they still have to test on humans because we react differently to chemicals than animals.
  • Chocolate: toxic to cats and dogs but we love it
  • Tylenol: fatal to dogs, not to us

I'm sure there are chemicals that bother rats and not us and vice versa, but as I don't have any pet rats, I don't know what they are off hand. Animal testing doesn't get us as far as some people think it does.

Re:rats != humans (1)

pepty (1976012) | more than 2 years ago | (#38670796)

Even when they test on animals, they still have to test on humans because we react differently to chemicals than animals.

  • Animal testing doesn't get us as far as some people think it does.

Too true. But it's a lot like what Winston Churchill said about democracy: " No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." We absolutely suck at creating model systems in which to test drugs, but we're better than we used to be :)

Re:Interesting development... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38669196)

Unless your wife is hideously disfigured, why does she need cosmetics anyway?

For a small handful of people, cosmetics are necessary. Unfortunately, much of the other 99% of the population has been brainwashed into believing that causing themselves discomfort, sometimes even pain, delay and expense is a "luxury".

My wife, I'm glad to say, wears no makeup at all. (Nor do I.)

Re:Interesting development... (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667256)

This might be a good way to reduce the number of animals needed in research, which is a laudable goal. But it won't be able to replace them entirely. In vitro research always has to be confirmed in vivo. Nothing about this technology changes that.

Re:Interesting development... (1)

pepty (1976012) | more than 2 years ago | (#38670758)

A sensor doesn't need food, water or shelter.

or give you that much information. Animals get used because individual cells and tissues can't stand in for a whole organism when it comes to, well, pretty much everything. They just don't behave the same. Adding an ATP sensor (of which there are already many) won't really change that, especially when there are plenty of other, more fine grained ways to measure toxicity. This seems more like an overhyped but otherwise very cool tool for studying respiration.

However (-1, Flamebait)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667024)

If we do this PETA wins.

Re:However (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667246)

Peta Todd? She always wins in my books.

So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667028)

Well, there goes my plan. Now I'm just a guy with a shitload of rats in his basement.

Re:So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (3, Funny)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667052)

got any neighbors you don't like?

Re:So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667170)

Sell them to the DEA, they love rats.

Re:So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667450)

They're not lab rats, they're reptile food!

Bam, fixed that business model for ya.

Re:So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (2)

Hillgiant (916436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667908)

Well, there goes my plan. Now I'm just a guy with a shitload of rats^H^H^H^H snakes in his basement.

Re:So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667468)

1) Get shipping container
2) Get mailing address of SOPA supporting corporation
3) Do I really have to spell this out for you?

Re:So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667946)

4) The SOPA supporters whip out their lizard tongues, hang the rats over their gaping jaws, and slowly swallow them.

. . . you did know that the Visitors are behind SOPA, didn't you . . . ?

Re:So, what am I going to do with all these rats? (1)

ULTRAJOE (808667) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676560)

sounds like a job for a lvl 1 adventurer

Do any Gizmag editors understand science? (5, Informative)

nbauman (624611) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667232)

This idea is decades old -- testing substances in tissue culture. The Frauenhofer guys have come up with an interesting improvement.

It will never replace most of the animal testing.

Researchers do tissue culture testing all the time. Then after the tissue culture tests, they have to see if it still works in the rats. Lots of times it doesn't. That's especially true with cancer treatments. There are lots of pathways in real animals, and they interfere with each other, particularly liver enzymes.

We cured cancer in tissue culture many times. Then they try to repeat it in animals and it doesn't work.

And lots of animal testing has nothing to do with activating a receptor. How can you send a tissue culture through a maze?
This is especially a problem for discovering harmful effects of consumer products.

Re:Do any Gizmag editors understand science? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667548)

When you stop and think about it, animal testing could never be replaced with any amount of science. Animals are very complex systems. No simple system will capture every interaction. And if you do create a system complex enough that it will react as an animal would to any given stimuli, you've basically built yourself an animal, and it's no more moral to run tests on it than it is to run tests on a mouse.

interesting. (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667322)

TFA says they measure the levels of ATP to see if cells are being damaged by chemicals. Its my understanding that cancer cells still do the whole ATP storage thing. Yes they can see if a certain chemical kills cells but they still need animal testing to make sure it doesn't cause cancer or interfere with any other interactions between cells or any other biological process that goes on when the cells are in an animal and not a petri dish

Ban animal testing (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667368)

They just get nervous and give the wrong answers anyway.

Slows down research (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667416)

One cost of this "cheaper" system that no one has discussed yet, is it slows down research. Lets say it takes a week to do a nano sensor run, an a week to do a rodent run.

So old fashioned technique is 100 mice get 10 samples in one week for a rodent run

The new technique is 100 nanosensors get 10 samples in one week, result is 8 totally suck but 2 might either work or give mice cancer or something. Then 20 mice get 2 samples in week two, the rodent run. Now, yes, you've saved the life of 80 mice, but "one week's worth" of human victims just died, and you just paid an extra weeks pay to the chemists and docs and statisticians, an extra week of capital costs, interest payments, etc. I hope you really love mice, because each one saved might divide out to cost a dead human patient and tens of thousands of dollars and maybe a person-lifetime of human labor.

Another weird thing to think about is my wife traps and kills about a mouse per week in the summer in the garage. So a weird balance exists where if the company has more than 80 employees, then wasting a week saves the lives of 80 mice at work, while they kill more than 80 mice in their garages...sort of like the people standing in front of the KFC restaurant protesting that windmills kill birds, or serving turkey subs at the anti-bird killing windmill protest march.

models are still models (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38667444)

No matter what substrate you use to test a drug or device, it is always a model. Always. Animals are a model for humans. Tissue cultures are models for whole organisms. Nanoparticles (or whatever) are just another kind of model. For some research and testing, there are even decent computerized simulations, but they're models too. Even during Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, the small number of humans used are models for the larger population.

All products are tested on animals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38667502)

If it isn't first tested on a mouse or a pig, then it is tested on you.

Re:All products are tested on animals (2)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668026)

Some products can only be tested on animals since it is intended for their use. Microsoft Windows, for example, should never be tested with a sapient creature.

The title (1)

microbee (682094) | more than 2 years ago | (#38667772)

Raise your hand if you read it as "Nonsense Could Help Reduce Laboratory Animal Testing" the first time.

Test more humans (1)

SomePoorSchmuck (183775) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668024)

Co-inclusive with the right to put whatever drugs you choose into your body, and the right to end your own life when you choose, the right to have physical relations with whatever other consenting partners you choose, etc. would be the right to participate in human experimentation if you choose. By prohibiting widespread voluntary human experimentation, governments are depriving you of the right to sell your labor on the open market in exchange for wages.

Re:Test more humans (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668384)

History suggests that 'voluntary'('voluntary' in the sense that would render a contractual relationship valid according to the usual principles of contract law, meeting of minds, not of adhesion, no force or fraud, etc.) relationships between unequal actors are vanishingly rarely a stable situation.

The chap who wants the compound tested almost always has substantially more data(from preliminary pre-human study) about safety than does the chap who will potentially be testing it. He does not have an incentive to be forthcoming about those data unless he thinks that it will make recruiting test subjects easier and/or cheaper... What, as they say, could possibly go wrong?

Re:Test more humans (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668426)

Until we eliminate poverty, nothing is truly voluntary.

Old test with new buzzword (1)

pesho (843750) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668044)

Testing stuff in cell culture has been around since the beginning of the last century. Testing ATP levels as a proxy for cell viability is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It is pretty crude test too. These assays are used on a daily basis and are routinely automated to do millions of compounds per day using standard tech without any 'nano' buzzwords. Admittedly this sensor may increase the assay density so we can do even more drugs in a single run. However, it is not going to replace a single lab animal. We already test all drugs in cell culture before going into animals.

Re:Old test with new buzzword (1)

pesho (843750) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668250)

Correction: It is not cheaper that current tech and will not increase assay density or performance. The only advantage over most current tests is that it can be used for continuous monitoring of ATP levels in living cells, but I can't find anything that substantiates their claim that it is not toxic. So nothing new here, move along.

Just a fancy dye for ATP (1)

dciman (106457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668076)

This is just an example of a membrane permeable dye for ATP detection. They are just looking at cells grown in cell culture media....

While this is cool, it is far from a replacement for animal models. For example, this would be useless to test the immune system response to a pathogen. It wouldn't let you determine how a bacterial pathogen enters its host and disseminates through the body. It wouldn't let you see what blood stream levels are produced for a given oral dose of a drug.

Animal research sucks... but so does disease. No one does animal research because they enjoy it (well, OK maybe a few crazies out there).

another ATP ratiometric dye, yahoo (3, Informative)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38668146)

This article is completely misleading. What they developed is an ATP-dependent ratiometric dye. It is nice but it is not the first ratiometric dye. It is also not the first fluorescent ATP reporter. How will this stop scientists to use animals? It won't. It is just one more tool in an already vast existing array of tools to study cells using fluorescence imaging. This journalist is an idiot. Where are the cells going to come from? For most practical interesting cases, they are going to be "extracted" from animals. Also while ATP is indeed an important molecule, it is really naive to believe that monitoring ATP alone can tell you anything about the state of a cell, especially in vivo, except whether or not it has enough glucose and oxygen. If it was as simple as "expose them to the substance under investigation." to find something worthwhile, everybody would already do it using calcium reporters, NADH autofluorescence, glucose reporters or any other of the numerous similar tools already available on the market.

Only most (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38671350)

Whatever side of the argument researchers fall on, most would likely use an alternative to animal testing if it existed.

Most would, but like the embryonic stem cell shills of slashdot and other lefty hellholes, you'd still have those for sticking with the more offensive method just to piss people off.

A**holes! (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 2 years ago | (#38672884)

>that virtually every medical breakthrough of the 20th century involved the use of animals in some way,

All those test results would still have been accomplished with human test subjects instead of animal ones....
I prefer using human test subjects , as no cruelty will come to them they way it does to animals in labs,
and the testing will not be needlessly done, where as I find many of the tests on animals are done quite carelessly sometimes
as they know they can just easily get more test subjects.

The difference is when you put someone's son or daughter in there to test on,
all of a sudden you develop some interest in making sure the formulas are accurate!!!
Wonder why that is, maybe because we have so little respect for life other than human....!!!

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