Bringing toxicology into the 21st century: a global call to action

Toxicol In Vitro. 2009 Dec;23(8):1576-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2009.06.012. Epub 2009 Jun 18.


Conventional toxicological testing methods are often decades old, costly and low-throughput, with questionable relevance to the human condition. Several of these factors have contributed to a backlog of chemicals that have been inadequately assessed for toxicity. Some authorities have responded to this challenge by implementing large-scale testing programmes. Others have concluded that a paradigm shift in toxicology is warranted. One such call came in 2007 from the United States National Research Council (NRC), which articulated a vision of "21st century toxicology" based predominantly on non-animal techniques. Potential advantages of such an approach include the capacity to examine a far greater number of chemicals and biological outcomes at more relevant exposure levels; a substantial reduction in testing costs, time and animal use; and the grounding of regulatory decisions on human rather than rodent biology. In order for the NRC's and similar proposals to make a significant impact on regulatory toxicology in the foreseeable future, they must be translated into sustained multidisciplinary research programmes that are well co-ordinated and funded on a multinational level. The Humane Society is calling for a "big biology" project to meet this challenge. We are in the process of forging an international, multi-stakeholder consortium dedicated to implementing the NRC vision.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computational Biology
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Toxicity Tests / methods*