Written by Hélène Sarraseca, published in "La Notice d’Antidote" n°14; March 2008
We were approached by SPA Jeunes (the teenage branch of the French pet rescue centre) to explain what we do. The regular members of this organisation, who work closely with children and teenagers, noticed that those aged between 10 and 14 were very responsive to our message. This gives us cause for hope as these youngsters will be adults in the near future. Although the following article has been written with them in mind, it is also good reading for all those aged 7 to 77 !
Antidote Europe is an organisation that was formed by researchers who disagree with other researchers.
There are some researchers and scientists who say that it is necessary to carry out tests on animals in order to heal humans. For example, if a chemical product is given to a mouse and the mouse dies, this would mean that the product is dangerous for us and we shouldn’t take it. However, these scientists are wrong. For example, it is a known fact that the antibiotic penicillin shouldn’t be given to guinea pigs as it is poisonous for them, while it has saved millions of people.
In March 2006, in London, a compound called “TGN1412” was given to six healthy humans after having been tested as safe in rabbits and monkeys. But when this drug was given to the six humans they almost died. They now suffer from complications, which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Therefore, animal testing is completely useless. At Antidote we have understood why, and the reason is very simple.
A cat and a rabbit cannot produce kittens, nor can a sheep produce young with a goat, or a mare with a bull! In order that any offspring be conceived, both of the parents need to contribute a cell which contains matching genes. It’s only because a cat has a full set of cat genes that he or she is a cat and not a rabbit. A female cat has a set of genes almost identical to a male cat and this is why they can conceive kittens, who will look like their parents.
Every animal species has its own unique set of genes, which will determine the characteristics of that species: such as the length of the legs or ears, but also the fact that a drug like penicillin will be poisonous for one but not for another, and so on for other drugs and chemicals.
A long time ago, cells, chromosomes and genes weren’t known. People didn’t even know that blood circulates in your arteries and veins due to a beating heart, or that liver stores sugar when we eat it in order to supply it to our cells when they need it. Before this knowledge became available, some scientists dissected animals and experimented on living animals to see what they could learn.
Some of them were disappointed with the results and realised that animals do not react like humans. Many years ago, scientists were sometimes allowed to experiment on people who were sentenced to death. Nowadays, although new drugs are tested on adults as well as on children, these individuals volunteer to take part and are told about the purpose of the experiment. However, since they are the very first humans to receive a new drug, do they really know what they’re in for?
The volunteers from London would have certainly refused, had they known the real risks involved.
At Antidote we believe testing new drugs on humans, based on results obtained in animals, is not a valid scientific method. Science should progress in logical steps, and not by making the same mistakes over and over again. When you know that an illness begins with cells that are not working properly in our body, it would be more logical to study those cells. This is what we suggest at Antidote: to study human cells, since cells belonging to a cat, a rabbit or any other animal do not have the same chromosome number or the same genes as ours. Therefore we wouldn’t be able to understand our illnesses by studying animal cells or actual living animals.
The good news is that it is very easy to keep human cells alive, in small containers, in a liquid that contains vitamins, sugar and anything that cells need. It is possible to conduct tests on those cells and see what happens. At Antidote we carried out a test to see what would happen if a cell accidentally “swallowed” an insecticide and other substances that should be kept away from children; or what would happen if they were given a product called “paracetamol” or “paraben”, which is commonly used in creams or deodorants. Our study showed us what happens inside the cells’ control room and it was as if we could see every gene represented by a luminous dot, which became red or green according to whether the gene’s activity had decreased or increased after the substance had been added to the container and the cells.
What we have described above is a very well known procedure called “toxicogenomics”, where the genes tell us whether the cell is going to die, or become cancerous, or instead, whether it is going to repair the damage caused by the substance. When we have understood what the substance does to a cell, we can conclude what effect it is going to have on men, women or even on a foetus in its mother’s womb. Animals will never be able to tell us that, even if scientists carry out very expensive and time-consuming tests that can last up to two years. However, using human cells we can obtain quick results (in a few days) and at a very low price.
The problem is that many scientists still work on animals and don’t know how to use cells. In addition, some laws still require animal tests because those who pass them don’t understand that these tests do not protect humans. Finally some big companies - who prefer to sell their products rather than care for our health – know that our genes don’t lie and they can’t cheat with them as they can when using animal experiments. Based on all of the above, we at Antidote fight against animal testing. We work to inform the men and women who are responsible for passing laws - along with everyone else - that simply because something is done in a laboratory doesn’t necessarily mean that it will provide better health, even if animal testing is financed with tax payers’ money!
Luckily some people listen to us. We managed to change a law passed by the European Union, which went into effect on 1st June 2007. Journalists interviewed Claude Reiss, the president of Antidote, who appeared twice on TV in 2007. His message was heard on the radio several times and his picture was published in some of the newspapers. But all this is a bit slow. The longer it takes for laws to be changed, the more time we will be exposed to dangerous chemicals, leading to conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or allergies.
We need your help! You can help us by joining Antidote, by talking about Antidote to those around you, so that more people know what you have just learned, so that more journalists contact us, so that the men and women who are responsible for passing laws don’t ignore us anymore.
Antidote Europe is a non-profit association formed by researchers from the CNRS, working for better prevention in the field of human health.