You may have heard of the term “lab rat” or have watched a scene in a movie where an animal is used in an experiment. For many years, animals are used in research for new drugs. However, earlier this year, a long list of people and animal-friendly organizations celebrated a new law that will finally replace a longstanding FDA mandate.
Until recently, animals were used to test a new drug. Only then, after testing these drugs on animals, will the US health authority FDA authorize human trials. However, in late December 2022, President Joe Biden signed an amendment law that lifts requirements to test new or developing drugs on animals before conducting human trials.
The amendment law, officially known as the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, allows animal-free alternatives, including human organoid models, to be used for the development of medicines and biological products for humans.
“This is a nice and big step” said our coordinator Katja Wolthers about the amendment law in an interview for de Volkskrant. “With organoids, we can test drug toxicity and see which products are promising – without animal testing” she added.
Organoids: The animal-free alternative
Change requires time and effort. A world where animal testing are fully replaced will take time. This is why at OrganoVIR Labs researchers are working to build an animal-free model that simulates human organs. We call them human organoids.
Human organoids, or mini human organs, are made of human tissue and stem cells. At OrganoVIR Labs, our researchers use human organoids to study virus infections, mainly picornaviruses, CMV and SARS-CoV-2. Compared to cancerous cell lines, animal models and laboratory animals human organoids are able to accurately show the cause of virus infections in humans and how human organs react to antiviral drugs.
Shifting the perspective towards animal-free innovation, especially when the mandate to test on animals has been implemented for many years, may be challenging. However, with the new amendment law and the existence of human organoids combined, the future of animal-free testing may be closer than we think.
Click here to read the full interview (in Dutch):