The hyped nano and the stressed laboratory animal
Arianna Ferrari studied Philosophy ( MA) in Italy and completed a PhD in Philosophy in a cooperation between Italy and Germany on ethical and epistemological aspects of genetically engineering animals in biomedical research. Currently she is a researcher in the Philosophy Department at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, in the European Community founded Project DEEPEN (Deepening ethical engagement in emerging nanotechnologies, http://www.geography.dur.ac.uk/projects/deepen/Home/tabid/1871/Default. aspx ). She is the author of various articles on animal experimentation (for ex. in ALTEX dec.2006), and on ethics of nanotechnologies (forthcoming). A book based on PhD research is also forthcoming (Harald Fischer editor, Germany).
Since nanomaterials could be applied to virtually any manufactured good across every industrial sector, emerging nanotechnologies are expected to be of great scientific and economic value. Because of their small size, nanoparticles could cross biological barriers and produce exponentially greater effects than their non-nano counterparts, raising an urgent need for toxicity studies. Many scientific arguments support the necessity of performing in vitro toxicity studies for nanoparticles on human cells and a number of techniques have already been developed. However, the European Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Risks (SCENIHR) has recently assessed the appropriateness of risk assessment methodologies, which include a great variety of animal experiments, for the risk assessment of nanomaterials.
In order to avoid the rethoric of nano as a magic wonder, able to solve many problems (including the ethical dilemma of animal experimentation), a systematic analysis of the conditions under which it is possible to speak of scientific potential of reducing animal experiments has to be performed. This paper will analyse current testing strategies and a possible new one in relation to the field of nanotechnology, alongside normative reflections on the legitimacy of (some) animal experiments for new products.