A university in the United Arab Emirates has introduced a human-based experiment as a way of replacing animal models of the effects of drugs on body organs. Medical students now dose themselves with coffee to observe how the stimulant properties of caffeine affect them.
The new scheme is described in the latest edition of PiLAS (Perspectives in Laboratory Animal Science), FRAME’s online discussion board. The article explains that traditional experiments to demonstrate the effects of drugs on organs were carried out using animals, but in recent years computer-based systems have been introduced.
However, Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) left students with no hands-on experience of using living tissues, and little understanding of the variations that exist between individual organisms of the same species.
Author Dr Syed Ilyas Shehnaz, of the Department of Pharmacology at Gulf Medical University said: “We considered it necessary to investigate alternative exercises which would expose the students to experimental methodology with scientific explanation. In an effort to identify alternatives to animal experiments and CAL at the undergraduate level, we introduced a new experiment in the teaching curriculum of Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and Pharm D (Doctor of Pharmacy) programmes.”
In the experiment, students were given a series of paper-based tests that assessed different mental functions, such as perception, recognition, integration and reaction. They carried out tests before and after drinking a cup of coffee, then compared the results to see how the caffeine had changed their scores.
They found a significant increase in psychomotor performance after the coffee intake, although students who regularly drank a lot of coffee were likely to have a smaller increase. Students who carried out the experiment said they found it interesting and informative.
More details of the experiment can be found on the Pilas Website at http://pilas.org.uk/coffee-in-class-an-alternative-to-animal-experiments-in-pharmacology/