Biomimiq’s in vitro human skin equivalents (HSEs) enable the replacement of animal studies in fundamental and preclinical research.
Animal experimentation and the 3Rs concept
The only direct approach to study human skin is through clinical research. However, experimentation on human subjects is limited by ethical and technical constraints. Therefore, indirect in vivo and in vitro approaches are used for experimental research without harming human beings. The use of in vivo models is subject to ethical debates on inhumane animal experimentation. Researchers are obliged to weigh the distress imposed on animals during the experiment against the expected gain in knowledge. Elimination of inhumane practices from animal experimentation is generally discussed under the three headings of reduction, refinement and replacement of humane technique – the three Rs introduced by William Russell and Rex Burch in 1959.
- Reduction covers any decrease in the numbers of animals used to obtain information of a given amount and precision. So, reduction methods obtain comparable levels of information from the use of fewer animals or more information from the same number of animals.
- Refinement covers any decrease in the incidence or severity of inhumane procedures. Therefore, refinement methods alleviate or minimize potential pain, suffering and distress and enhance animal well-being.
- Replacement covers the substitution of conscious living animals for insentient material. Replacement methods therefore achieve a given purpose without conducting any scientific procedure on animals. The 3Rs concept is currently fully implemented in standard procedures for designing animal experiments.
Persisting relevance to reduce animal experimentation
Since the 1980’s, efforts to reduce animal experimentation have been gaining momentum under the pressure of animal welfare groups and public opinion. In 1986, an European Union (EU) directive on the protection of animals used for experimental purposes officially banned animal experiments whenever a scientifically approved alternative exists. Ever since, the number of animals used for experiments more than halved. However, recent reports show that despite this absolute decrease, the number of genetically modified animals rises drastically, pointing out the persisting relevance of reducing animal experimentation.