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Research and testing without animals.

Scientists are finding ways to run tests and conduct research using fewer experimental animals. For example, Salwa Elgebaly at the department of surgery at the University of Connecticut in Farmington has found a way to study eye injuries using coreas from cow eyes salvaged from slaughter houses. Instead of using lab animals, Elgebaly keeps the isolated cows' corneas alive in little baths of nutrient solution called "corneal cups." After damaging the corneas, Elgebaly looks for changes in the cells of the corea, and for "chemotactic factors" in the fluid over the cornea. The presence of the chemotactic factors--which are known to attract white blood cells -- shows that in a whole animal, white blood cells would have been attracted to the injured corea, inciting an immunologic response that would further damage the corea, Elgebaly says.

Elgebaly's corneal cup technique could also replace the Draize Eye Irritancy Test, she says, wherein commercial products are tested on live rabbits' eyes until the rabbits go blind. "Scientifically, the corneal cup model is well accepted," she says, but adds that it must be tested with broader spectrum of toxic products in order to be accepted for commercial use. Elgebaly has applied to the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) in Baltimore, Md., for support for this research.

Meanwhile, another researcher, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has developed an alternative way to test food and fecal samples for infant botulism bacteria.

"This is a very popular test for many other diseases," says researcher Manouchehr Dexfulian. In the test, the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), antibodies to the botulism toxin are bonded to the walls of small wells in a plastic plate. The "antitoxin" is then exposed to the sample and to another round of antitoxin/toxin/antitoxin forms, which turns yellowish green when exposed to an enzyme.

The whol procedure takes only a few hours. The antibodies for the test can be produced by injecting rabbits with harmlessly diluted toxin and then taking blood samples from the rabbits. Two rabbits produce enough antibody in four weeks to replace thousands of mice, according to CAAT. The new method is also faster, cheaper and often more reliable than the old one, which took up to two weeks and involved injecting mice with potentially toxic samples and waiting to see if the mice died.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 24, 1985
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