To determine the toxicity of a substance to the environment or human health, standardised toxicity tests using animals can be performed. However, there is increasing international, societal pressure on industry to replace, reduce and refine animal experimentation according to the principles of the ‘3Rs’, first described by Russell and Burch in 1959.1
In some regulatory spheres, such as cosmetics, vertebrate animal testing has been banned altogether and the regulatory pressure to move to alternative testing methods is increasing in others, like REACH. Among the alternatives, the use of in silico methods such as (quantitative) structure-activity relationships ((Q)SARs) and appropriately chosen read-across strategies are powerful tools to predict the toxicity of chemicals without the need for further animal testing.
QSARs are mathematical models relating a toxicological activity to molecular or physico-chemical parameters, or ‘descriptors’, for a group of compounds. Read-across strategies use one or several analogues with available toxicological data, and consider that these data are also applicable to the target substance.
These approaches all employ the first of the ‘3Rs’: replacement.
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