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Technology Science

Nanosensors Could Help Reduce Laboratory Animal Testing 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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Nanosensors Could Help Reduce Laboratory Animal Testing

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  • by allaunjsilverfox2 ( 882195 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:12PM (#38667004) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by Meeni ( 1815694 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:16PM (#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.

      • by Anonymous Coward

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

        • 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.
      • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:37PM (#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.

        • 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 [] 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/w
        • by guruevi ( 827432 )

          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.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:35PM (#38667256) Journal

      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.

    • by pepty ( 1976012 )

      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.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:14PM (#38667028)

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

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:33PM (#38667232) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      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.

  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:40PM (#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
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:44PM (#38667368)

    They just get nervous and give the wrong answers anyway.

  • 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

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

  • 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.
    • 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 incent
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Until we eliminate poverty, nothing is truly voluntary.

  • 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 anim
    • by pesho ( 843750 )
      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.
  • 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... b

  • by golden age villain ( 1607173 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @05:50PM (#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.
  • >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 differ

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