Robots to replace animal testing

Using robots in labs could reduce the need for animal testing, US scientists have found. Instead of using live animals, scientists at two US government agencies are currently testing potentially hazardous chemicals on cells grown in a laboratory, using high-speed automated robots to help carry out the tests, BBC News reports.

The aim is to reduce the need – including cost, time, and number of animals used – of animal testing on products ranging from health and beauty products, to pesticides, to household chemicals.

More productive

Instead, robots could carry out hundreds of thousands of chemical tests every day to identify toxins in chemicals. Instead of the ten to 100 studies carried out per year on rodents, robots would be able to complete over 10,000 screens on cells and molecules in a single day.

A far faster method, it would also be cheaper than traditional testing methods, according to Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institute of Health.

Expensive and time-consuming

"Historically such toxicity has always been determined by injecting chemicals into laboratory animals, watching to see if the animals get sick, and then looking at their tissues under the microscope," Collins told BBC News.

"Although that approach has given us valuable information, it is clearly quite expensive, it is time-consuming, it uses animals in large numbers and it doesn't always predict which chemicals will be harmful to humans."

He added the five-year research programme into robot testing could “revolutionise the way that toxic chemicals are identified”.