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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthCAAT

CAATALYST: A Student Newsletter

Volume 1, Number 1

CAATALYST \kat-l-est\ n. (1981): 1) An individual or organization working to reduce, refine and replace animal use in the life sciences; 2) an agent that provokes significant change.

Letters to CAAT

  • I am thirteen years old and in the eighth grade. I wrote a short letter to all of the companies that manufacture the bath and body products in my home...I was hoping that you would be willing to send me information on the progress of developing new ways of testing without using animals...Jennifer E. Kisch, North Plainfield, NJ
  • I am an eighth grader at Highland Middle School. I am writing a research paper on animal testing. I would like to ask you a few questions about animal rights: 1) What are the alternatives to animal testing 2) What can we do about animal testing for medical research 3) How can I help prevent animal testing...Cherie Lefebvre, Highland, MI.
  • I am a junior high English teacher at Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu, HI. Each year my eighth graders do a unit involving panel discussions on current events. The rights of animals is always a popular topic. Recently we ran across a reference to your organization and are very interested in learning more about the alternatives that your institution is developing. Any information you can send us would be greatly appreciated...Lori Christianson, Honolulu, HI
  • I am against animal testing. I think it is cruel, inhumane and unnecessary. I would like to make others aware of what is going on but I don't know enough. Could you please send me some information on animal testing and research ?...Lisa L. Carson, Willoughby, OH


These are a few of the letters we have received this year from middle-school students and teachers. We know from your letters that you care very much about both animals and people and want to learn more about how scientists are working to develop alternative ways to test the safety of the products we use every day.

We decided to create "CAATALYST" so that we can answer your questions and help you to understand why we need to test products, and about the kinds of tests that have been developed as alternatives to whole animal tests. The answers to these questions can sometimes be long and complex, and we cannot answer them all in one poster. We thought that in this first issue we would tell you about our Center, why and how it was started and what we do.

In the next issues of the poster, we will tell you about the progress that has been made in developing alternative tests as well as the kinds of information these tests can give us and when they can and cannot be used. We have chosen "CAATALYST" as the name of this publication because the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) has acted as a catalyst for change.

At the time when CAAT was founded, a number of people had become concerned about the welfare of the animals that were used to develop and test products like cosmetics, soaps, shampoos and lotions. They began to ask whether animal testing was necessary. Until that time, animal testing was one of the only ways to learn about the safety of these products.

By law, companies must test their products in order to protect consumers. In response to the concerns of people who opposed animal testing, a group of companies donated $1 million through their trade group, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA), to found a center dedicated to developing in vitro and other alternative methods to test products and insure their safety. CTFA decided to give the money to the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, where CAAT was founded in 1981.

What is an Alternative Test?

We define alternative tests by the three R's — reduction, refinement and replacement. A reduction alternative is a test that uses fewer animals. A refinement alternative is a test that improves the well-being of the animals. A replacement alternative is a test that uses an in vitro or computer method instead of a whole animal. The idea of the three R's was first described by two British scientists, Russell and Burch, in 1959.

What Does CAAT Do?

CAAT gives money to scientists in the form of grants, to develop methods that may be used as alternatives to standard whole animal tests. In the 13 years since CAAT was founded, many scientific advances have made it easier for toxicologists to design alternative tests. In future issues of CAATALYST, we will explain about some of these alternative tests to help you understand them better. CAAT also works with people in government and industry to keep them informed about alternatives. We publish a newsletter three times a year and other materials like this poster series to inform scientists and the public about the development of alternatives.


  • Cataylst- 1) A substance that initiates a chemical reaction and enables it to proceed under different conditions than otherwise possible without itself being consumed in the reaction; 2) Broadly, one that provokes significant change
  • In Vitro- Latin for "in glass," a term used to describe studies dones with cells or tissues cultured in petri dishes. In vivo, or "in life" are done in the living animal.
  • Alternatives- Methods that reduce, refine or replace the use of animals for research, education, and testing.
  • Grant- Money given to scientists to study specific problems.
  • Toxicologists- Scientists who study how chemicals affect the environment and human health.
  • Trade Group- An organization composed of companies which manufacture the same type of products.