(qlmbusinessnews.com Fri. 7th June, 2024) London, UK —

Revolutionising Safety Testing: AI's Role in Phasing Out Animal Experiments

The potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to end animal testing is becoming increasingly feasible, as researchers leverage AI technology to find non-animal alternatives for testing the safety of drugs and substances for human use.

One promising application of AI involves analysing the extensive global database of existing animal testing results to avoid redundant new tests. This task, often cumbersome for scientists, can now be streamlined by AI systems like ChatGPT, according to Joseph Manuppello from the Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine.

Thomas Hartung, a toxicology professor at Johns Hopkins University and director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, highlights AI's capability to extract information from scientific papers with human-like, or even superior, precision. This is crucial as the need to evaluate new chemicals—over 1,000 introduced annually—remains a primary driver of animal testing. AI systems are beginning to assess the toxicity of new compounds efficiently, offering preliminary assessments that flag potential issues, thus enhancing the speed and accuracy of toxicity testing.

Animal Testing AND AI

AI’s involvement extends beyond analysis to drug creation itself, marking a significant leap forward in the field. However, AI systems are not infallible. Data bias remains a concern, particularly if the AI algorithms are trained predominantly on data from specific ethnic groups, potentially skewing results for other demographics.

Despite its imperfections, AI is proving more reliable than traditional animal testing in some instances. For example, the arthritis drug Vioxx passed animal tests but was later withdrawn due to human health risks. Conversely, aspirin, toxic to rat embryos, remains a staple medication for humans.

Projects like AnimalGAN, developed by the US Food and Drug Administration, aim to predict how rats would react to various chemicals, while the international Virtual Second Species initiative is creating a virtual dog based on historical dog test data. The UK’s National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research is involved in this endeavour, hoping AI can eventually replace initial animal tests before human trials.

The primary challenge for AI-driven testing is regulatory approval, a process that Dr Cathy Vickers acknowledges will take time. However, Emma Grange from Cruelty Free International argues for the complete phase-out of animal testing, suggesting AI could significantly contribute to this goal.

Yet, not everyone is convinced that AI can entirely replace animal testing soon. Kerstin Kleinschmidt-Dorr from Merck emphasises the necessity of animal testing in many areas, though she remains hopeful for future animal-free solutions.

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