The University of Windsor is opening a cutting edge new research institution: the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM). The first of its kind in Canada, and the CCAAM aims to expose the ineffectiveness of animal testing models, and develop compassionate, animal-free research methods.
CCAAM executive director Dr. Charu Chandrasekera is a biochemist and molecular biologist with 17 years of experience in the field. After years of conducting cardiovascular disease and diabetes research on rodents, she saw first-hand that results in animal models simply don’t translate when it comes to humans.
As Dr. Chandrasekara told the Windsor Star, “Yes, we’ve used animals for decades — It’s not working. When you have 95 per cent failure to translate from animal models to human clinical trials, there’s something wrong with the paradigm.”
According to Dr. Neal Barnard, the founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, about half of drugs approved for consumption are either recalled or relabelled due to side effects. These adverse human reactions are not identified in animal research.
The revolutionary animal-free technology in the CCAAM will include computer models that analyze human cells and tissues, and organoid modeling—creating in vitro three-dimensional human organs with stem cells.
Many other countries are already moving away from animal research, but Canada is falling behind. In 2015, more than 3,570,352 animals—mostly mice and fishes—were subjected to laboratory experiments, according to the Canadian Council of Animal Care (CCAC). (Privately-funded facilities aren’t required to report the animals they use, so the total number is likely significantly higher.)
Animal research is notoriously difficult for the public to monitor due to inadequate regulation, and lack of publicly available information. Yet in March of this year, Canadians got a glimpse of the gruesome truth when CTV’s W5 aired a Last Chance For Animals investigation into shocking cruelty to dogs, pigs, and monkeys at Montreal lab. The hidden camera footage showed animals being aggressively restrained, thrown into cages, and slammed onto steel operating tables. Some technicians swung dogs by catheters, which ran down their spines and into their abdomens. Painful procedures were performed on animals in plain sight of other animals, causing additional psychological distress.
The CCAAM is set to begin work in October and will offer degree programs for research with animal alternatives. It’s encouraging that major technological advancements in animal-free alternatives are becoming mainstream and will help replace cruel and outdated animal experimentation.
There is also legislative action designed to rescue animals from lab experiments—Senate Bill S-214 would ban animal testing for cosmetic products, something the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Norway have already done.
Until cruel animal experiments are outlawed, make sure to research and avoid companies that test on animals. A new tool can also help you avoid supporting health charities that fund animal experiments—check out www.HumaneCharities.ca.