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Thread: Improving biomedical science and reducing use of animals

  1. #1 Improving biomedical science and reducing use of animals 
    cor is offline
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    I am posting here, hoping for ideas and feedback on how we can use the computer to
    1) improve biomedical research, especially in cancer, and at the same time
    2) reduce the use of laboratory animals.

    My professional background is that I recently started as a bioinformatic engineer in a cancer research institute.

    Biomedical science seems to be seriously hampered by the use of animal models, as Khalil writes in a recent article in Current view on Oncology:
    "Many of the cell lines and animal models used to study cancer mechanisms and test possible therapeutics are not predictive of what will happen in actual in vivo human tumors. The discrepancy between in vitro and the in vivo human has significantly affected the ability of researchers to devise successful cancer therapeutics. “(1)

    An example of the problem with the animal model is shown in the case of DNA (plasmid) vaccination. Although successul in animal models in humans it didnot work that well:
    * However It soon became evident that DNA vaccines while robust in small animal models were less immungenic in nonhuman primates and humans. (6). and
    * Unfortunately, this (DNA plasmid, ed) technology has not proven to be reliable in humans. (2, p. s7)

    Replacing animal models for computermodels based on human (f.e. microarray) data, would improve science and at the same time reduce the use of laboratory animals. Besides the effort in building such models, it also seem to require a paradigma shift in biomedical science. Traditional, biomedical (molecular) science is using a reductionistic approach, Reseach is focused on the effects of knocking down or knocking out of a single gene. A more holistic, system approach is needed. The approach advocated by Khalil is to infer (“reverse engineering”) the gene regulatory mechanisms looking at microarray data, using mathematics and statistics. The “inference engine” should however also take in account what is already known in the form of existing computermodels.

    What do you think are the prospects and/or requirements for the use of computer models in stead of animal models in biomedical science?

    Thanks for your reply in advance!

    Cor Lieftink
    (1) Khalil, I G; Hill, C (2005) Systems biology for cancer. Current Opinion in Oncology. 17(1):44-48,

    (2) Plotkin , S.A, (2005) Vaccines: past, present and future. Nature Medicine 11, S5 - S11

    (3) Schleef, M. (2005) DNA-Pharmaceuticals: Formulation and Delivery in Gene Therapy, DNA Vaccination and Immunotherapy. Chapter 1

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  3. #2  
    Him is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by cor
    A more holistic, system approach is needed.
    Here you refer to microarray studies and together with the proteomic technique, these techniques can give broader insight in how diseases develop. But I do not directly see the reduction in animal experiments. The drawbacks hold stand. In microarray and proteome techniques one also compares knock outs unrealisable in humans.

    For testing medication to show reductions of biomarkers (=Biomarkers are usually disease-associated proteins that can be detected and quantitatively measured for disease diagnosis, staging, progression and treatment monitoring) is far from ideal.
    Furthermore one has to keep in mind that monitoring of certain biomarkers specific for a certain disease condition, to evaluate (new) medicines does not always overlap with the clinical conditions of the patient. A drug that has a desired effect on the biomarker(s) does not have a clinical effect per se. (Many biomarkers looking good at first hand, does not work all the way).

    But I encourage this kind of research.

    But I agree, the patient databank in hospitals contains unique martial (and human samples) to uses in microarray and proteomic setup. Standardized protocols from over the world could lead to enormous experiments, with comparable results.

    But for developing and testen new medicines I can’t see how these systems can eliminate animal models.

    All the success

    he who forgets...will be destined to remember (Nothing Man - Pearl Jam)
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  4. #3  
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    While what you suggest is true, it should be fewer animals, ECT. But computers aren't as reliable.

    You wouldn't trust a computer to drive your car, *primitive I know compared to what we are talking bout!* so I don't think computers can really provide much evidence.

    Sure it might work in the early stages of treatment devolvement, but it really cannot predict exactly the effect on any tissue!

    Cancer is unpredictable at the best, of times.

    Although it would be a good research tool, to begin with!
    Stumble on through life.
    Feel free to correct any false information, which unknown to me, may be included in my posts. (also - let this be a disclaimer)
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  5. #4 Re: Improving biomedical science and reducing use of animals 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cor
    What do you think are the prospects and/or requirements for the use of computer models in stead of animal models in biomedical science?
    There is still an aversion against computer models. In the end the criticism is that they are 'merely' models.

    The reductionist viewpoint has been king for a while and that will continue to be so. There are many causes for this. The number one being the system. Everything is nowadays modelled on the american model. Funding based on publications. Good publications (=merely papers in journals with high impact factor) will get you more money.

    What gets published in these journals? Mainly the reductionist stuff.

    The new black in biology is systems biology. It is supposed to have a holistic approach. But I'm afraid that reality already caught up with it. Reductionism sells.
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