Will Human Simulations Become A Part Of Drug Testing?
Whether or not you believe that the price of new drugs reflects the true cost of creating them, it’s true enough that the research and development of modern medications is an expensive process. Just about the least expensive part of the process is coming up with a way to design new chemicals from scratch and then mass produce them – the real costs come from all the studies on raw tissue, live mice, other animals, and eventually humans which have to take place before the FDA will even consider granting its approval.
That’s why researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California have been developing an artificial stand-in for the human body. They’ve already come up with a plastic chip that duplicates the design of the human brain in miniature, and they hope to expand their stock of organs and other body parts in the near future.
While a comprehensive human simulation probably won’t replace human trials altogether thanks to the randomness in human biology, it can still potentially save drug researchers a lot of money. The vast majority of drugs tested on mice have shown a lot of promise only to fail to deliver in humans. Humans are much more complex animals than mice, after all, and we’re several hundred times as big. Tumors don’t work the same between mice and humans, and our brains have some very obvious differences along with a few similarities.
Thus, while a human simulation can help by identifying any major problems before a drug reaches actual human test subjects, its biggest benefit is the fact that it can tell researchers to not bother continuing with a drug that probably won’t do anything at all.
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