Kelly is the Director of the Lung & Particle Research Group, at Cardiff University, and one of the speakers at 2014's Lush Prize conference.
Please could you introduce yourself and give us a brief introduction to your work.
The LPRG, part of the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University in Wales, UK, specialises in environmental health. Our research focuses on inhalation toxicology, with a particular interest in understanding how air pollutants compromise the human respiratory system and cause lung disease. We tissue-engineered 3-dimensional, in-vitro lung cell cultures from human donors, to be used as an alternative to the rodent lung model in inhalation toxicology applications.
Why is it not useful for products intended for humans to be tested on animals?
Historically, lung research is first conducted on animals (e.g. rodents, rabbits and canines) or isolated humans cell lines from bronchial or alveolar cells, but both methods have limitations (e.g. different anatomy and physiology, and hence, poor extrapolations). There is no suitable animal model to mimic the human lung, and the production of cell lines to immortalise them for long-term use requires altering their behaviour, leading to cancer-like cells.
Alternatively, researchers can now tissue-engineer “normal” cells isolated from human donors to grow outside the body (i.e. in vitro) to produce safety screening strategies.
How have new methods of toxicology testing affected the way that science views the animal model as a test subject?
Toxicity testing has reached its apex in terms of animal experimentation and is rapidly embracing in-vitro methodologies as a result of ready access to human-derived tissues and cells. As a stop-gap in the first instance, human tissue equivalents (HTEs; such as 3D human lung cell cultures) can be employed to bridge-the-gap between 2-dimensional cell culture (i.e. mono-layers) and live-animal tissues.
Is 1R the new 3Rs?
It can be if the 3Rs practices are promoted and adopted globally, as noted by the NC3Rs “Our Vision” (2015-2015). Replacement may be the only “R” when improved scientific outcomes are observed following the use of alternatives, which may then motivate regulatory change.
In your opinion, are we near to a breakthrough in the fight against animal testing?
We are more than near, we are here! The stumbling blocks are due to the historical rules set by regulatory bodies that require product testing on animals. This is especially so in the field of pharmaceuticals, when it comes to drug discovery and production of safer medicines. There needs to be more funding for education and training of young researchers in the use of alternatives and viable prospects for commercialising 3Rs technologies.