Why it’s important to acknowledge the limits to animal testing research26.05.21
Traditionally, before testing the effects or toxicity of a substance – such as a new drug – on humans, scientists would first examine its effects on other living animals in preclinical studies. Today, even as new methods in research have evolved, mice, rats, rabbits, primates, cats, dogs, and other animals continue to be routinely subjected to testing.
Typically in preclinical toxicity studies, laboratory animals are exposed to high doses of a substance under controlled conditions. The results are then extrapolated to draw conclusions on their potential impact on humans.
The ethics of animal testing remains a contentious issue. Critics of animal testing argue that it causes suffering, while the benefits to humans are not conclusive, and any human benefits that animal testing does provide could be produced in other ways.
Indeed, modern developments in toxicity testing, often referred to as TT21C (short for Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century), can now evaluate changes in biological processes using cells, cell lines or cellular components of human origin – rather than relying on traditional methods using live animals.
You can find a in-depth interview about TT21C on the Imperial Brands Science site if you want a more technical and strategic overview.
Despite the development of this new testing framework, animal testing remains ubiquitous in research studies – and we believe it’s important to recognise that there are limits to the information we can gather from these methods. It goes without saying that there are vast biological differences between humans and, for example, mice. Simply put, the best predictive model for a human is a human.
For this reason, Fontem Ventures’ parent company Imperial Brands has a group-wide policy of never commissioning or conducting research involving animals, unless formally required to do so by governments or recognised regulatory authorities.
We believe TT21C research methods could provide us with a deeper understanding of how human cells behave when subject to chemical exposure. Animal studies on the other hand, which often examine a single endpoint, don’t provide the same information.
Nor has there been much innovation in animal testing methods over the years, meaning scientists are still conducting similar studies to those used in the 1950s, with the well-known animal welfare impacts. Meanwhile, TT21C innovations have emerged as a more ethical and more effective means of predicting biological effects seen in people. As we continue in our efforts to offer adult smokers less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes, we’re increasingly relying upon and conducting scientific research that even has the potential influence future research outside of tobacco and vaping categories.