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TNO set up a research programme to refine, reduce and replace animal testing. In this programme, TNO collaborates with others to accelerate the process of developing better alternatives.
It is worthwhile to develop, validate and implement 3R methods not only from an ethical point of view, but also for scientific reasons. These alternatives lead to better predictions of the human situation and help to reduce the number of animals involved in testing and the discomfort these animals experience.
We aim to develop and adapt test methods in such a way that the test animals are exposed to as little discomfort and stress as possible. Imaging is an example of such a technique that we apply. An advantage of imaging is that it is usually minimally invasive. This reduces stress and discomfort in test animals, which also benefits actual test results. Stress itself can cause measurable changes in the body. These effects have to be filtered out of (or taken into account in) measurements in accordance with the actual goal of the test.
TNO aims to reduce the number of animals involved in testing. We regularly review our testing methods and implement integrated testing strategies. This helps us to determine whether animal testing is needed or whether the same information can be obtained in other ways. Data simulations are performed to determine the optimal study design that will provide the most valuable information with the smallest number of animals in each experiment.
We continuously seek to replace animal studies with other methods, preferably using human tissue or cells. We work with human models, where possible, since that helps us to make better predictions about how a substance, for example a drug, will affect humans. When we have discovered ways to replace animal testing, we use them ourselves and encourage others to apply these alternative tests.
Non-testing techniques, such as computer modelling, are continually being developed and improved. In the case of chemicals, this could lead to the categorisation of substances with certain characteristics. This would mean a major shift away from generating safety data, to identifying, organising and interpreting safety information. In this new approach, non-testing techniques could replace or refine animal testing.
In general we aim to develop or improve methods that fulfil the industry's need to improve the development of new products by using more predictive models which preferably can also be applied in regulatory testing. When we find ways to improve our 3R research methods, we make it a special priority to gain broader acceptance and implementation of these improvements.