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University Develops Virtual Rats to End Animal Testing

Researchers at the University of Oxford were awarded $30,000 to continue development on software that aims to be more accurate for scientific testing than animals.

United Kingdom-based National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) recently awarded researchers at the University of Oxford $30,000 to continue their work to end animal testing. The researchers developed “Virtual Assay” software that simulates human cardiac cells and can predict how 62 drugs affect the cells. After conducting thousands of trials, researchers found that their software could accurately predict the effect of a drug on arrhythmia 89 percent of the time—a figure that yields a 75-percent accuracy rate in similar tests conducted on rabbits. “Current strategies for drug cardiotoxicity assessment involve a combination of preclinical studies using a variety of animal species,” Oxford researcher Elisa Passini told media outlet Gizmodo. “This screening phase can easily exceed the use of 60,000 animals a year (an underestimation), and this is where our models could play a major role in replacement.” Researchers will use funds provided by NC3Rs to perfect the software, promote its usage within the medical field, and apply it to new fields of study such as researching type 2 diabetes. The software would also be a useful tool in the cosmetics industry—where consumers continue to use their spending power to support brands that do not test beauty products on animals.

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