The University of Oxford has been awarded £30,000 to continue developing software for ‘virtual rats’, which aims to be more accurate than testing on animals.
Researchers at the University have developed a software called “Virtual Assay”, that is designed to simulate human cardiac cells.
As a result, the software can predict how 62 different drugs would affect the cells included in the software.
The researchers found that using the simulated human cardiac cells, they could correctly predict whether a drug could cause arrhythmia 89% of the time, compared to only a 75% accuracy in similar tests done on rabbits.
Oxford researcher Elisa Passini said: “Current strategies for drug cardiotoxicity assessment involve a combination of preclinical studies using a variety of animal species,”
“This screening phase can easily exceed the use of 60,000 animals a year (an underestimation), and this is where our models could play a major role in replacement.”
It is hoped that this software can be further developed so that it can be applied to different fields of medicine, and for other diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
The software and the use of ‘virtual rats’ could also be used within the cosmetic industry, where hundreds of brands have already made the ethical decision to move away from testing on animals.
The use of animal testing across the globe is slowly decreasing, with the rate of primate testing in The Netherlands decreasing by almost 50%.