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U.S. Seeks to Limit Animal Testing of Toxic Chemicals
Date:2/14/2008

Future screening would rely on lab cells, robots, computer models

THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. government scientists proposed Thursday to limit the testing of potentially toxic chemicals on animals and replace it with new high-tech testing methods.

According to an agreement involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. National Toxicology Program, toxicity tests will start being done using human cells in laboratories, robots, and computer modeling. This approach should enable researchers to analyze more data on the toxic effects of chemicals -- ranging from pesticides to household cleaners -- more quickly, greatly reducing the need for animal testing, the scientists said.

"The research collaboration we are announcing today really has the potential to revolutionize the way toxic chemicals are identified," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute, said during a morning teleconference.

This collaboration is still a research effort, Collins noted. "In the long term, we might be able to do a better job of predicting toxicity by using these cell-based tests, but we don't know if that's going to be as good as we would like. The purpose of this collaboration is to test this out," he said.

The report outlining the proposal is published in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Science.

Historically, toxicity has been determined by injecting chemicals into lab animals and watching to see if they got sick. "Though that approach has given us valuable information, it is expensive, it is time-consuming, it uses animals in large numbers, and it doesn't always predict which chemicals will be harmful to humans," Collins said.

New technology has made testing chemicals much faster and more accurate.

"As a society, we need to be able to test thousands of chemicals in thousands of c
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