The University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed a technique that could allow tissue grown from human stem cells to replace lab mice in experiments with Botulinum toxin. The toxin — which is regarded by scientists to be the most dangerous toxin to humans — is used to treat neurological disorders, muscle spasms, cervical dystonia, uncontrollable sweating, chronic migranes, and is popularly used in cosmetic procedures under the more widely recognized name, Botox. The research procedure developed by the university will allow for the testing of drugs without the need to experiment on animals to determine safety.
“This is an optimal testing platform for botulinum neurotoxin products,” said Sabine Pellett who, helped lead the study. “A cell-based assay that is at least as sensitive and reproducible as the mouse bioassay can serve as a viable alternative and largely eliminate the need to use animals.”
An assay is a procedure for testing the effect on drugs or biochemicals on an organism. Replacement procedures that eliminate animal testing in medical laboratories are becoming valuable as more people demand the end of animal cruelty for human gain. Because of the extreme toxic nature of Botulinum toxin, the preparations of drugs that use it must be very carefully measured and tested.
The University of Wisconsin researchers claim to have found an assay that not only replaces the mouse for testing, but is more sensitive and accurate in the long run.
“The mouse assay has many drawbacks and hundreds of thousands of mice are used for this every year,” Pellett said. “The most important result of this study is the high sensitivity of the assay, greater than the mouse bioassay, which is required for quality control.”
The human neurons were grown by researchers thanks to stem cells provided by Madison-based Cellular Dynamics International.