Animal testing in laboratories for cosmetic and pharmaceutical research has for long been a contentious issue. The use of biochip technology has helped find a solution to the ethical concerns raised by animal rights activists. Moreover, big corporations are now looking for alternatives to animal testing to avoid legal hassles and save animal lives.
Why Avoid Animal Testing?
The traditional method of testing toxicity of a chemical involved the use of animals. However, several new compounds are generated every year, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, and the costs involved are huge for animal testing. Moreover, animal testing labs require preventive and safety measures to ensure safeguards against animal abuse and compliance with ethical standards. In addition, there is the risk of researchers contracting diseases they experiment on, in case of non-compliance with standard safety protocols.
The Science behind Biochip Technology
Research published in BMC Genomics first showed that human cells created in labs can be used to assess the strength of allergic responses to chemicals. The sensitizing potency of a chemical can be predicted by comparing the established reaction of a chemical with “biomarker signature” of genes, which was defined by researchers from Lund University of Sweden.
Types of Biochips
Biochips are of two kinds – Data Chips and Meta Chips. These can ascertain the reactions of a chemical compound as it metabolizes in the human body. This eliminates the need for any experiments on animals. A biochip comprises of about thousand human cell cultures. The three dimensional structure is similar to the arrangement of cells in a human body.
Why Use Biochip Technology
Even a chemical like acetaminophen can turn highly toxic when metabolized by the liver. Every individual’s metabolism for a chemical is different because of the difference in the type and quantity of drug-metabolizing enzymes, which are mostly present in the liver. This means that a chemical can be harmless to one person but toxic for another. Biochips could be used to give personalized medicines to individuals.Moreover, biochips allow high throughput assays and give a new perspective to toxicology. For instance, by using biochip technology, a lab can test ten thousand compounds with thousand levels of concentrations in just two days. This clearly helps generate more data for human consumption without harming animals.The process of evaluating the toxicity of a compound using biochip technology can provide companies fast and reliable results. The results can also be measured for different kinds of human cells. Moreover, biochips are economically feasible compared to animal testing and provide quick results.