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How ‘bodies on a chip’ can transform animal welfare

Animal testing is going out of vogue in industries and universities around the world. In 2009 the EU banned the practice in its cosmetics industry, and in 2013 lawmakers bumped up protections to include all cosmetics sold throughout the EU.

RACHEL NUWER: ‘It was animal welfare, not conservation, that originally prompted Ken-Ichiro Kamei, a microengineer at Kyoto University, to look beyond the confines of human medicine. While studying laboratory mice at the University of California, Los Angeles, he found himself sympathizing with his four-legged subjects. “I was like, why do I need to use a mouse to study humans?” he recalls. “I was curious about how I could help such animals.”

He’s not alone in asking that question. Animal testing is going out of vogue in industries and universities around the world. In 2009 the EU banned the practice in its cosmetics industry, and in 2013 lawmakers bumped up protections to include all cosmetics sold throughout the EU, regardless of where they were made. Chips loaded with human tissues can help alleviate the need for animal testing – a double plus since mice, rats, rabbits and monkeys do not always react to a drug or product in the same way people do. Because of this, the human body-mimicking chips, Kamei says, are “considered a main contender for alternatives to animal tests.”

Humans, of course, aren’t the only species that suffer from disease, and iPS cells and chip technologies might accelerate the development of new medical treatments for animals too. Significantly fewer people study animal diseases compared to human ones, and fewer resources are available to support those studies. The versatility of wildlife makes it even more difficult to devise species-specific cures for diseases, and on top of that, endangered species tend to be scarce and laws often prohibit capturing them, even if it would help scientists to understand their health and illnesses’. SOURCE…

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