February 2, 2016

Microreactor replaces animal testing

© Photo: Fraunhofer IZI
Scheme of the microfluidic bioreactor (top), and details of the wells containing microparticles
(oxygen probes) and cells in the background (below).

(February 2, 2016)  Researchers all over Europe are working on alternatives to animal testing that can be used to evaluate the adverse side-effects of medications. But many of these test methods still present problems. A microreactor developed as part of an EU-funded collaborative research project enables cultured liver cells to be used as test samples. Unlike animal testing, this novel method enables the assessment of potentially toxic substances on tissue in real time.

Serious efforts are underway to significantly reduce the number of animal tests carried out for research purposes. The latest EU Cosmetics Regulation, which came into force in 2013, bans the sale of cosmetic products containing ingredients that have been tested on animals. But it is difficult to find alternatives, not only for the cosmetics industry but also in the field of pharmaceutical research. In many cases, there are no other suitable methods of toxicity testing available. Numerous research groups are therefore working on the development of new, viable test formats.