This opinion piece was written by Kathleen Conlee, vice president, animal research issues, for The Humane Society of the United States. She contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Efforts are underway, and moving at an exponentially increasing pace, that ultimately will yield medical- and cosmetic-testing technologies that provide timely and accurate results while sparing animals from needless suffering, or worse.
This is an exciting time; what seemed like science fiction just a few years ago is reality today. This includes the ability to grow human cells in a scaffold that mimics and functions as a living organ does -- for example, human skin and liver -- and a wide array of in vitro testing systems that, combined with interpretive computer algorithms, predict increasingly complicated biological outcomes for drugs and other therapeutic agents.
In 2007, the U.S. National Research Council first expressed the need to redesign chemical testing completely, inspiring companies to rethink the ways in which they conduct product testing. Since then, several institutions have received funding to develop technologies in nonanimal biological research, bioinformatics and engineering.