Monday, July 10, 2006

One of the world’s most confrontational animal rights group is quietly researching

product and chemical testing methods with the aim of making animal-based tests obsolete.

The research, said Jessica Sandler, director of regulatory testing for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), focuses on a system owned by the California-based Hurel Corp.

The medical technology, she and other PETA officials said, includes a biochip that allows scientists to fill tiny channels with cells from various human organs and then test products.

“You can test a drug on a ‘whole system,’ and the drug encounters human cells in the same order they would encounter them in the human body,” Miss Sandler said.

The Hurel technology, combined with other ideas based on human cells, allowed PETA to design product-testing methods that do not harm animals, she said.

Research shows that cell-based tests are more accurate than traditional animal tests, Miss Sandler said.

“Animal tests are so frequently subject to manipulation that the results can be used to support whichever position you want to support,” she said.

“The non-animal method — the cell-test method — has an 80 percent accuracy to humans, whereas with the animal tests, you might as well flip a coin,” Miss Sanders said. “We’re looking at a fundamentally flawed system. Ninety-two out of every 100 drugs that pass animal tests fail in humans.”

Human-based tests also can cost up to $20,000 less than animal-based methods, she said.

“The good thing about non-animal testing is not only [is it] faster or cheaper, they also benefit human health,” Miss Sanders said. “Let’s say you didn’t care about animal testing at all and that it hurts animals — presumably you’d still use the test that’s going to be more accurate and more relevant to humans.”

PETA says it donates millions of dollars a year to organizations that perform non-animal testing. Its own scientific research and related giving rarely evoke much discussion outside the animal rights group.

“I work on issues that aren’t flamboyant or sexy or easily dumbed down,” Miss Sandler said. “They’re basically serious scientific issues that serious scientists are working on.”

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