Doctors Pioneer New Area of Cruelty-Free Product Development
Researchers Can Now Use Humanely Produced Insulin Test Kits
WASHINGTON—Amid mounting concerns about the ethics and limitations of animal use in laboratories, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) announced today that it has developed a diagnostic test used to measure insulin levels in diabetes patients. Linco Research, Inc., a leading manufacturer of testing supplies based in St. Charles, Missouri, is now marketing the test internationally. The announcement of the new test comes just weeks after European Union officials and industry groups issued a joint declaration pledging to reduce the use of animals in laboratories.
PCRM initiated development of the assay in 2002 after launching a clinical trial examining the effects of a low-fat vegan diet on diabetes. The only insulin test kits on the market at the time used two cruelly derived animal ingredients—fetal calf serum, a slaughterhouse byproduct that can harbor bacteria and viruses, and cells incubated in the abdomens of live mice, a painful procedure banned in several European countries but still legal in the United States. No one had ever manufactured an insulin assay kit without the animal serum, and numerous laboratories told PCRM it couldn't be done.
The resulting alternative, one grown in a synthetic medium, proved to be as accurate as the existing insulin testing method, and costs the same. Linco has begun manufacturing the animal-serum-free kit and offers it to researchers in the United States and abroad. The cruelty-free kit is expected to sell particularly well in Europe, where laboratories are concerned about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) being transmitted in animal serum.
“Our success shows that a little ingenuity can do a lot to reduce the cruelty involved in medical testing,” says Megha Even, M.S., the PCRM research analyst who headed up R&D on the
assay. “If scientists put more effort into developing alternatives to the use of animals in medical research and testing, we could alleviate animal suffering and practice more effective medicine.”
Mrs. Even presented PCRM's insulin assay at the Fifth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Berlin and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology earlier this year.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.