Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A Lab Rat -- Created in the Lab

TAU is bioengineering tissues as an alternative to animal testing

It's illegal for health products with medical formulations to be accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration without tests on animals — a situation that has serious ethical and moral implications. New research in the field of tissue engineering by Prof. Amit Gefen of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Engineering holds a promise that far fewer lab animals will be needed for the necessary experimental trials.

Dr. Gefen's research into fat cells, published in a recent issue of Tissue Engineering , has led him to conclude that the necessary tissue can be produced from fat, skin, bone and muscle cells. His breakthrough study could have hundreds of applications in the pharmaceutical and medical world.

"Drugs make our lives better, and basic science is needed to push new drugs through clinical trials. But there is no doubt that an untold number of animals are sacrificed in the laboratory setting — both in basic research and in applied conditions when testing particular molecules," says Prof. Gefen, who heads TAU's Teaching Laboratory for Cell and Tissue Engineering. As a medical researcher himself, he was dependent on animal trials for testing new hypotheses he developed for living systems — until recently.

A more efficient road to scientific research

Bridging the worlds of biology and engineering, Prof. Gefen is now using adult rat stem cells — cells that can be stimulated to create skin, bone, fat and muscle tissue from an animal in a laboratory setting. In his own work on studying the mechanical properties of pressure ulcers, many tissue replications were needed. His new approach no longer requires the sacrifice of large numbers of animals. When an experiment is over, not one animal life has been lost.

The use of engineered tissues, says Prof. Gefen, may also be more scientifically efficient than using those from a living source. "The model we've created offers a very reliable method for researchers asking questions about basic science, and those investigating new drugs. We can injure tissue in a very controlled environment and grow muscle tissue without blood vessels, thereby neutralizing certain variables that often cloud what's happening in an experiment."

Saving lives and improving research at the same time

Though Prof. Gefen's method may not completely eliminate the need for animal testing, as few as 5% of the animals used today will need to be sacrificed in future tests, he predicts.

"It's a matter of proportion. Our tools spare an enormous number of lives," Prof. Gefen says. He is currently bringing together a number of discrete research directions from the separate fields of mechanics, tissue engineering and biology. He is also developing a new tool for researchers to investigate fat accumulation in cells (an important question for diabetes researchers) and weight loss drugs. Among his devices is one that can tell doctors how much mechanical stress is being placed on a person's foot, buttocks or other soft tissues. Another measures how much sensation is left in a diabetic limb. For all these approaches, Prof. Gefen has adopted tissue engineering methods to use fewer animals in his trials.

"We are now able to build a number of 'simplified' living tissues quite readily, and we're able to keep them 'alive,'" Prof. Gefen says. "They're genetically similar to the biological tissue of the animal, so we can factor out irrelevant physiological elements such as bleeding and pain response in an experiment. The fact that this tissue is genetically identical and the environmental factors are so well-controlled means that we can obtain far more experimental reproducibility than with experiments done on live animals."

In the future, Prof. Gefen hopes that similar models can be based on live human tissue, but that could be a number of years down the road.

George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

3-D-printed structures shrink when heated

26.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

First results of NSTX-U research operations

26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>