News - Stem cells

Stem cells to reduce the need for animal testing
The Times (London) 4th May 2010

“I trained as a veterinary pathologist, and the correlation between results in animal and human trials is not that great at the end of the day”

 

Powerful stem cells made by reprogramming adult tissue could reduce the need for animal testing of new drugs, according to a scientific pioneer of the technology. Jamie Thomson, of the University of Wisconsin, advises “in-vitro trials” based on so called induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells would refine pharmaceutical development so that fewer animal experiments would be required.

 

The cells were already being used as a source of human tissue for testing candidate drugs for safety and effectiveness. As a result, fewer unworkable drugs would advance to animal studies, and some animal tests may become unnecessary. If what we are doing is successful it will dramatically reduce animal testing, and maybe towards the end of our lifespan actually eliminate it for some things.” IPS cells, which were created in 2007 and are made by manipulating adult skin tissue to give it versatile properties of embryonic stem (ES) cells.  These master cells can be grown into any type of tissue, offering a limitless source of specialised cells for use in research. As IPS cells are made without destroying embryos, their use is ethically acceptable. As much of this toxicity testing is currently performed in animals, there is great potential for reducing the number of animal experiments. 

 

Professor Thomson adds “I trained as a veterinary pathologist, and the correlation between results in animal and human trials is not that great at the end of the day. The chief value of IPS cells would be as laboratory models for studying disease and testing drugs, rather than cell replacement. While it may prove possible to grow patient specific spare part tissue, which would not risk immune rejection, the costs are high. This gives us access to the basic building blocks of the human body.”