Nano & Alternatives to Animal Testing
Nanomaterials and nanotechnologies have the potential to help create new product testing methods that avoid the use of laboratory animals.
They can be used for the development of in-vitro methods i.e. the use of cells or tissues derived where possible from humans that are cultured under laboratory conditions - as alternatives to in-vivo methods (live animals) for testing chemical substances.
It is hoped that by fostering the potential of emerging technologies combined with adequate in vitro cellular systems developed according to good cell culture practice principles, it will be possible to reshape hazard identification approaches used in EU legislation.
The prediction of neurotoxic effects on the nervous system is a key feature in the toxicological profile of many compounds and therefore, is a requirement under regulatory testing schemes. Currently in vitro neurotoxicity test systems are commonly used to study the mechanisms of neurotoxicants but are rarely used to predict hazards to human health.
Current OECD and EU guidelines for the evaluation of neurotoxic effects of chemicals for hazard and risk assessment are based solely on in vivo studies using laboratory animals. Such an approach is, however, not suitable for testing a large number of chemicals. It is time-consuming, expensive and a high number of animals is required.
With nanotechnology, an alternative testing strategy is in sight where a series of in vitro tests might prove a better solution.
Whilst nanotechnology may provide us with some good alternatives to using laboratory animals in scientific research, the potential toxicity of nanoparticles themselves – particularly as they are used in the food and feed sector - have also to be tested.
Nanotoxicity is a new area for regulators and the approach to toxicity testing is being revised with a preference for using of in vitro studies in hazard assessment test methods. The use of small laboratory animals also seems to be a less relevant approach for this emerging technology.
The Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) has been leading the way in developing suitable techniques. It now has the capacity to synthesize nanomaterials of varying sizes and shapes as well as to culture standardised human cells in the laboratory, with which it can investigate the effects of nanomaterials on human cells and proteins.
In particular, the Institute’s specialised experimental facilities enable the production of radio-labelled nanoparticles which can directly monitor the uptake and fate of nanoparticles in cells. The Institute is also developing automated testing platforms and processes to allow efficient and reliable screening of potentially hazardous nanomaterials.