University of Nottingham - Dr Martin Garnett
The team aim to produce a much more realistic cell culture model of drug uptake so that fewer animal experiments are needed, with the ultimate aim being to replace these altogether. Animal experiments for drug testing range from in vitro cell assays through to assays on excised animal tissue and chronic experiments in surgically modified dogs.

Measuring how drugs get into the body is important to the pharmaceutical industry. As various nanoparticles are now produced, there is also concern about whether, how, and in what quantities nanoparticles can get into the body.

The main barrier to drug uptake in humans is a layer of cells known as the epithelium.  Currently available cellular models are too simple to determine drug and nanoparticle uptake accurately, so animal experiments are still widely used.  The pharmaceutical industry still uses a wide range of models to predict oral uptake of drugs under development. These range from in vitro cell assays like permeability of drugs through Caco-2 cells, assays on excised animal tissue, and chronic experiments in surgically modified dogs.  In 2011 there were 57,624 mammalian experiments in the UK associated with ‘alimentary studies’ mainly using mice and rats.  A subset of these experiments would have been associated with drug testing, although the pharmaceutical industry also carries out many animal experiments abroad for cost and regulatory reasons. The issue of how reliable/realistic the cellular models are will affect the number of animal experiments carried out. 

The Nottingham research team aim to produce a much more realistic cell culture model of drug uptake so that fewer animal experiments are needed, with the ultimate aim being to replace these altogether.