Toxicity testing without using fish


Swiss and Dutch scientists are working on a four-year project to replace the use of fish in toxicity testing.


The project has received one million Swiss Francs from Switzerland’s National Science Foundation, under its Advancing 3R – Animals, Research and Society research programme, to create a virtual fish using a combination of in vitro tests and computer models.


The joint project is being conducted by Switzerland’s aquatic research institute Eawag and the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, and research includes toxicity tests based on fish cells grown in the laboratory.


Project leader, Kristin Schirmer, of Eawag, said: "We chose gill cells because it is the gills that first come into contact with chemicals in water due to their large surface area in the fish. So by observing how the gill cells are damaged by a chemical, we can predict how that chemical would affect a living fish."


A test guideline developed in 2021 by Schirmer’s team, based on rainbow trout gill cells, was adopted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


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