The Post really screwed this one up, not so much because they took a side on an issue in news piece (this is close to an opinion piece), but because it gets so much wrong and doesn’t even address the rest of the story.
Issue 1: Science will save them!
I’ve been over this before, here and here, but we’ll do it again. The Post makes it seem as if we have all this technological advances that can make tests more applicable to humans. Okay, here’s how you would make an in vitro system similar to a human: take cell that you want to look at, surround it with other cell types it interacts with from that organ, embed channels to get nutrients, wastes, and other chemicals in and out, then add other organs that interact with that orgen, and systems for communication between different organs, and mechanisms for defense. You see where I’m going with this: the best model for a human is a human. The next best this is logically and scientifically, an animal.
All the in vitro techniques are, and will be, reductionist (i.e. the deal with only very small and specific questions). Why? Because you can’t model the human body without building a body. Furthermore, we don’t really even understand completely how the body works so how in the heck do you think we can confidently build models when we’re unclear about what we’re comparing it too. It’s like having someone say, “I want you to build a house that is exactly like that one. Oh, I don’t have any blueprints, but you can look in some of the windows.”
Issue 2: C’mon, don’t be so hard.
It makes 4 out of 185 methods approved sound really bad, like ICCVAM was way too harsh. If they were more lax, maybe we’d be reading a story about how some drug has been killing people because a test that didn’t work was used. Here’s a novel idea for you, maybe the other 181 didn’t work.
While we’re on this, let’s move to Issue 3: Oh, I love Europe, they’re the bestest!
First, I don’t know of any ECVAM test methods that have been adopted by EU member countries that have been rejected by ICCVAM (that’s the US side of things). If anyone knows of one, please post it in the comments. Second, there have been a couple of eye toxicity tests that the EU accepted without validation. The EPA nominated the 4 tests but when the validation was done, it was found that 2 of them don’t predict eye tox well enough to be used for regulatory work. Whoops! Guess we should have used the European approach and just taken them based on the existing literature, cause they’re all a bunch of socialist liberals who are so far advanced in keeping their citizens safe. Right, right? Geeze Americans, get over the Europe-envy already. Lovey culture, health care, and public transit, no doubt about it, but I’ll keep our drug development problems over theirs (and our immigrant problems over theirs, for that matter).
Issue 4: “Animal don’t predict what will happen for anything else”. Hey blockheads, as far as physiology is concerned, we’re animals too. So I guess I do agree with this, ‘Plants aren’t good predictors of human toxicity’.
Issue 6 In vitro tests are the way of the future, man. Don’t be a square!
Yeah, and at one time so were TV dinners, space travel, and dropping acid daily. We flirted with those at one time or another and realized that they weren’t really the best idea. The article presumes that non-animals tests can be, and at some point, will be used. It really isn’t a given that they will be better. Maybe animals that evolution has linked and produced over millions of years are just better models for each other than what one can dream up in a petri dish in a decade. Maybe not, but you’ve got to prove it.