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Minipigs as models for the toxicity testing of new medicines and chemicals: impact assessment

Periodic Report Summary - RETHINK (Minipigs as models for the toxicity testing of new medicines and chemicals: impact assessment)

The objective of the RETHINK project was to evaluate the potential impact of toxicity testing in the minipig as an alternative approach in regulatory toxicity testing that can contribute to the replacement, refinement and reduction of animal testing (3Rs).

Minipigs are strains of domestic pigs that are markedly smaller than farmyard varieties, and thus better adapted to laboratory housing. The pig closely resembles man in many features of its anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and lifestyle. In particular, the cardio-vascular system, skin and digestive tract are considered to be very good models for man. Because of these similarities the toxic effects of chemicals and drugs in pigs may resemble the effects in man more closely than do some other commonly used laboratory animals. The pig also has some features that make it a very practical model for laboratory studies. Finally, being a food animal, testing in the minipig may be more acceptable to the public than animals such as dogs or monkeys.

The RETHINK project has resulted in an impact assessment report (IAR) which provides regulatory agencies, toxicologists in pharmaceuticals and chemicals industries, animal welfare professionals, research funding agencies and other interested stakeholders with readily accessible and concise information and recommendations.

Issues addressed in the IAR include the welfare and ethical use of mini-pigs, the impact on product development and the relevance, validity and comparative value of mini-pigs as models in toxicity testing. In addition the impact assessment report identifies areas where further action or research is required.

Their work has also permitted:
- plenary meeting of all invited experts to comment on WG and overall project conclusions;
- availability of impact report (in non-finalised form);
- dissemination activities at six scientific meetings including the organisation of mini-symposium at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Society of Toxicology in Seattle.

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