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59th International Laboratory Animal Day

Reducing animal research with alternative methods
Animal head for learning intubation. Photo: Manfred Eberle

The International Laboratory Animal Day on April 24 is intended to remind us of the animals that are used in experiments - whether for research purposes or as part of testing the safety and efficacy profile in drug development. Animal experiments are a small but crucial part of biomedical research, including at DPZ. The DPZ conducts biomedical research with non-human primates, for example, to develop therapies for serious diseases for which there are currently inadequate treatment options. Since the nervous and immune systems of monkeys are very similar to ours, non-human primates are particularly suitable for some research questions; here the transferability to humans is very high. At the same time, the use of primates must meet particularly high ethical standards.

Meanwhile, many animal experiments can be avoided by alternative or complementary methods, which play a role not only in research, but also in the education and training of veterinarians and scientists. Since training on non-human primates is prohibited, but the relevant skills must be demonstrated by staff before they are allowed to work practically on animals, the Skills Lab at DPZ was established to fill this gap.

"In the Skills Lab, we can practice procedures on lifelike models and thus reduce uncertainties for later work on live animals, which reduces the stress on the animals," says Rabea Hinkel, head of the Laboratory Animal Science Unit at DPZ and of the Skills Lab, adding: "This is an important contribution to the 3Rs principle (English: replace, reduce, refine), which is mandatory for all researchers and aims to replace animal experiments with alternatives, limit the number of animals used in experiments, and limit the burden on animals to an indispensable level."

More models were recently added to the Skills Lab. In addition to an artificial skin model, which can be used to practice suturing a "wound", or an animal head to learn intubation, for example, an anesthesia simulation monitor was installed to train anesthesia monitoring and possible incidents under the guidance of experienced veterinary anesthesiologists. A lifelike model of a rhesus monkey leg made of silicone allows training of blood sampling in the groin, and on a model of a rhesus monkey skull with cranial implants, researchers can practice the care of the implants before they take over this task in the future with the rhesus monkeys in neuroscience research at the DPZ.