TORONTO – More than 4.3 million animals are used in research in Canada each year – caged, poked and poked – to help scientists learn more about disease and explore safe treatments for humans.
A biochemist is trying to change that by launching a laboratory at the University of Windsor to develop and test alternatives to animal use.
Charu Chandrasekera, executive director of the new facility, sees the opening of the Canadian Center for Animal Methods Alternatives (CCAAM) as an important step toward its ultimate goal.
"My dream is to see the end of animal testing in Canada during my lifetime," she told CTV News.
On a TED talk last AprilChandrasekera spoke about the history of animal testing, recognizing that many scientific discoveries could not have been made without it, such as "insulin, penicillin and the polio vaccine."
However, she argued, numerous drugs were removed from the market due to their lethal effects on humans – after rounds and rounds of animal testing, the researchers led the researchers to believe they were safe.
Studies have shown that 95% of experimental treatments that work on animals fail when introduced into humans in clinical trials. quoted on the site to CCAAM. Sometimes drugs that are safe for animals have proven to be no less effective for humans but toxic to them.
"There are tremendous differences in the way animals and humans develop disease and how we react to drugs and chemicals, so there is a great need to develop methods based on human biology," Chandrasekera said. She added that scientists also have an "ethical mandate."
It is the ethics of animal testing that infuriates Canadian philanthropist Eric Margolis, who claims that the cost of testing animals is simply too high for these types of results.
"The animals burned, scalded, froze," Margolis told CTV News. "They have electrodes implanted in their heads, they are poisoned with toxic substances."
When he owned Jameson Labs, Margolis banned animal testing at his facility. Now he is helping Chandrasekera look for non-animal testing options: his foundation has donated $ 1 million to officially fund his laboratory.
The new lab will develop tests that use human tissue and stem cells to test drugs and chemicals instead of animals. Its mission, as stated on its website, is "to serve as a Canadian leader and nexus to advance alternatives to animal testing."
The concept of drug testing on animals is old in the scientific community. Chandrasekera herself used to use rodents in her research on cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
"At the time, I thought it was perfectly normal," she said. “It's the culture. We use rodents as the gold standard for almost everything in biomedical research and chemical safety testing. "
What has changed your mind? She said she "personally experienced firsthand" the struggle to realize that her work "would not really translate effectively to humans that I really wanted to heal."
Chandrasekera said that while animal testing "has contributed significantly to our understanding of biology," now is "the time to go beyond that, to actually create systems that tell us about our (human) biology and how we react to drugs and products." chemical "
Their thinking is part of a global movement that hopes to shift scientific testing to a more humane – and potentially more accurate – way of getting answers by thinking outside the cage.
Animal testing is "a waste of animal lives, resources, intellect," she believes.
"If the scientific community came together and put their minds, their resources and everything to create the next generation of technologies that we need to replace in animal testing," she said, "it would be … a great world."