PCRM Develops Cruelty-Free Insulin Assay
In January 2004, PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., launched an important clinical trial to test the effect of a low-fat, vegan diet on patients with type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, the standard lab test for measuring patient insulin typically uses antibodies grown in the painfully swollen bodies of mice. Even the smaller number of labs that grow these cells in test tubes use fetal calf serum, a gruesome byproduct of the slaughterhouse industry, as a growth promoter.
So PCRM took on the challenge of developing the world’s first-ever animal-free insulin assay.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
First, PCRM located a lab in Emeryville, California—BiosPacific—that would not only grow the antibodies in a test tube, but would do so without bovine serum in the cell culture medium. The results were excellent; the cells grew perfectly using this method.
The next challenge was to incorporate these antibodies into a test kit. To do that, PCRM worked with Linco Research, a leading supplier of insulin kits in St. Charles, Missouri. The project took several months and was not cheap, but the antibodies work exactly like those used in traditional tests, if not slightly better. The new method is now being used to analyze insulin levels in PCRM’s study participants’ blood samples.
PCRM is now working on two scientific papers describing the project. Once published, the papers will promote the use of PCRM’s custom assay and encourage researchers to develop alternatives to other tests that use animal-derived ingredients.