EU Science Hub

Advanced Non-animal Models in Biomedical Research


A study was initiated at the JRC to develop a current overview of available and emerging non-animal models in the field of Respiratory Tract Diseases. In a literature review, over 21,000 abstracts (11,636 non-cancer and 9,421 cancer) were scanned for relevant non-animal methods of respiratory disease. From this, a total of 284 publications were finally identified as being promising candidate methods according to a set of inclusion/exclusion criteria. In vitro cell and tissue cultures, human ex vivo, in silico approaches were chiefly considered. These methods have been collated into a catalogue of biomedical disease models that will form a key knowledge source for researchers, educators and national ethics and funding authorities. The availability of a centralised source of reviewed methods will contribute to extend the requirements of EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes to biomedical science. Simple cell culture models using immortalised cell lines are long-established, are inexpensive and quick, however they poorly reflect complex disease mechanism observed in vivo. The emerging use of more physiologically-relevant models of disease, such a 3D human tissue cultures, spheroids, organoids, and microfluidic /’lung on a chip’ based systems shows immense promise for the development of in vitro model systems that can more accurately mimic human respiratory diseases. This review shows that, while simple models are still prominent and have their uses, research focus has, in the past 5 years, shifting towards increasingly sophisticated bioengineering approaches that recapitulate lung development, anatomy and physiologic functions in vitro. Such approaches hold the promise of more human-relevant disease models that can be used to elucidate mechanism of disease and aid in the development of new therapies.