Animal Aid

Another nail in the coffin of animal research

Posted 31 October 2006

Today’s announcement that scientists can now grow human liver from umbilical cord stem cells is good news. This breakthrough - resulting from a collaborative effort between a team of Newcastle scientists and technology supplied by the US space agency NASA - allows stem cells obtained from the umbilical cord of new-born babies to produce a ‘mini liver’.

The liver is key to the way in which the body deals with prescription drugs and chemicals. Traditionally, researchers have dosed animals with test compounds in poisoning tests to determine how humans would be affected. Nearly a half of a million animals are killed in British laboratories every year for such research. However, these animal experiments repeatedly fail to predict the human response because of the stark differences in the biochemical properties of the liver in people and animals.

Scientists have been able to grow human liver cells in the laboratory for many years. The new development represents another important step in expanding the range of non-animal testing methods. The excitement that today’s announcement has generated should accelerate the move towards research that is both scientifically sound and ethically acceptable.

Notes to editors

  • For more information, contact Andre Menache or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546
  • ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews
  • Read our key document on humane research.

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