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Medical Journal: Animal tests in birth defects

These excerpts from a very recent article in a medical journal provide excellent quotations. To clarify, teratology is the study of the cause of birth defects. From Biogenic Amines Vol 19, No 2, pp97-145 (2005) Also available at: 'The future of teratology research in vitro', Jarrod Bailey, Andrew Knight and Jonathan Balcombe.

Abstract - Birth defects induced by maternal exposure to exogenous agents during pregnancy are preventable, if the agents themselves can be identified and avoided. Billions of dollars and man-hours have been dedicated to animal-based discovery and characterisation methods over decades.

We show here, via comprehensive systematic review and analysis of this data, that these methods constitute questionable science and pose a hazard to humans.

Mean positive and negative predictivities barely exceed 50%; discordance among the species used is substantial; reliable extrapolation from animal data to humans is impossible, and virtually all known human teratogens have so far been identified in spite of, rather than because of, animal-based methods'. We argue that the poor performance of animal-based teratology alone warrents its cessation; it ought to be replaced by the easier, cheaper and more repeatable EST [a cell-based test], and resources made available to improve this and other tests even further.'

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