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EU Regulations on animal research explained

The Speaking of Research website aims is one of the biggest and most accurate resources for information about animal research worldwide. In our mission to provide as much information as possible, we have recently added a page on the European Union’s regulation of animal experiments. While regulations across the 28-EU countries are created and implemented at a national level, they must all conform to EU Directive 2010/63, which aims to harmonise the regulations between member countries. 

Our new page on “Animal Research Regulation in the EU“, adds to those pages on UK and US legislation, to help people understand the requirements that EU Directive 2010/63 places on EU member countries.

See an overview of EU legislation below:

Countries in Europe have differing systems of regulation, but those within the European Union must meet the standards set out by EU Directive 2010/63/EU. The purpose of the Directive is to harmonise standards across the EU, as well as to promote and implement the 3Rs – Replacement, Refinement and Reduction  of animals used for research. The Directive was adopted in 2010, but member states were given until January 2013 to transpose these regulations into domestic law.

Where specific parts of a country’s laboratory animal welfare standards were higher, they were permitted to retain them, for example, the UK retains its additional protections for cats, dogs, horses and primates. However, overall, the minimum regulations set by the EU are high by international standards. Every aspect from cage sizes to staff training is covered, with the 3Rs of Reduction, Replacement and Refinement at the heart of the Directive’s aims. The Directive requires a risk-based inspection regime and lays down minimum standards for housing and care, and systematic project evaluation. While the UK follows these EU regulations, we have written about their specific rules and regulations on our Animal Research Regulations in the UK page. In March 2017, the UK gave notice of its intention to leave the EU, however, the Government has so far suggested it intends to maintain its current animal welfare legislation after Brexit.

The legislation covers non-human vertebrate species (including independently feeding larval forms and last trimester foetal forms of mammals) and cephalopods.

Cephalopods, such as octopus and cuttlefish, are protected under EU regulations

[…]

All EU countries must also provide public statistics outlining the numbers of animal procedures completed each year. These are broken down in many ways, including by species, by type of research, and by severity. Speaking of Research provide analysis of these national statistical releases, which can be found on our Animal Research Statistics page. Across the EU, mice, rats, birds and fish tend to account for over 90% of the animals used in each country.

Scientists must also produce a non-technical summary of their experiment – essentially an abstract stripped of esoteric language so it can be understood by a layman. In countries such as the UK, these are made available on the regulator’s website for the general public to see (UK example).

To read the whole article, see our page on EU legislation.

Speaking of Research

Research Roundup: Artificial bile ducts, saving bat populations, safety of CRISPR and more

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • CRISPR gene editing technique argued to be probably safe. In a previous research roundup, we highlighted the ongoing debate with respect to the safety of the CRISPR-Cas 9 gene editing technique. In that study, it was argued that despite using this technology to restore sight to mice, when looking at the whole genome of the animals, hundreds of areas other than that targeted DNA sections were affected in three of those mice. In a new preprint of an article (non-peer reviewed), researchers argue that the differences that were found were simply a consequence of genetic relatedness rather than unexpected mutations. While it is still far from certain which side is correct, such dialogue and debate highlight the stringency that most treatments that eventually make it humans go through before introduction to the general population — much in part because of animal research.

  • Artificial bile ducts successfully grown in the lab and transplanted into mice could help treat liver disease in children. Scientists in Cambridge, UK, have developed a new method for growing artificial bile ducts in the lab and successfully transplanting them into lab mice — a development that could one day be used to treat liver disease in children. The discovery could also reduce the need for liver transplants in these patients. The researchers extracted healthy cells (called cholangiocytes) from bile ducts and grew them into functioning 3D structures known as biliary organoids. Researchers then grew the organoids on a “biodegradable collagen scaffold” in order to shape the organoid into a tube, which they then transplanted into mice to replace damaged bile ducts. The transplants were successful, and the animals survived without any further complications. The scientists emphasized the “power of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine that these results demonstrate. “These artificial bile ducts will not only be useful for transplanting, but could also be used to model other diseases of the bile duct and potentially develop new drug treatments,” said Dr. Fotrio Sampaziotis, lead author on the study.
    The research was published in Nature Medicine.
  • Antibodies of mother halt placental transmission of cytomegalovirus in monkeys. In our research roundup two weeks ago, we highlighted the debilitating effects of CMV on infants. Approximately 50% of all humans over the age of 40 harbour the CMV, and over 1 million infants a year are infected worldwide. Here, for the first time, researchers studied whether the offspring of mothers exposed to CMV specific antibodies, would confer protection to their offspring from the virus in utero. In the first experiment they found that dosing with CMV antibodies prevented abortion of the fetus and in a second experiment found that a higher dose completely blocked transmission of the virus.While the virus in rhesus macaques is not identical to that in humans (RhCMV) much can be learned from studying this derivative of the disease in non-human animals – similar to the study of SIDS in our understanding of AIDS. In terms of the applicability of this work, lead author, Cody Nelson, a PhD student at DUke university says “Ending congenital CMV infection is likely going to require an effective vaccine given before pregnancy, similar to how the rubella vaccine has eradicated congenital rubella syndrome in the Americas.” This research was published in the journal JCI Insights.
  • Thermal imagery of bat hibernation suggests group behavior for combating white-nose syndrome. Insect-eating bats play a large role in pest control services, likely saving the U.S. agriculture industry upwards of $3 billion a year. However, white-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that has been spreading rapidly across North America for the past decade and is causing steep declines in bat populations. A recent study by researchers at Massey University in New Zealand, used temperature-sensing cameras on hibernating bats with white-nose syndrome to better understand how some bats survive white-nose syndrome during hibernation, while others do not. Interestingly, they found that a species of bat (Indiana bats, Myotis sodalis) — that is less affected by the disease than others (little brown bats, M. lucifugus)– slowly warmed up as a synchronous group, which may have enabled body temperatures to be less conducive to fungal growth and increase the bat’s ability to survive the disease. Not only does this basic research help us  towards finding solutions to mitigate the declining bat population, but it also may help scientists in the future to combat disease in astronauts who will hibernate during long-term space travel.

A northern long-eared bat was affected by white-nose syndrome in Illinois. Credit: J.R. Hoyt.

  • Cilene Lino de Oliveira has won the Basel Declaration Society 2017 Award for Education in Animal Research. Oliveira, from the Department of Physiological Sciences at the University of Santa Catarina, teaches the University’s “Laboratory Animal Care and Welfare” course. The award will give her the opportunity to do an EU course in animal welfare at the Institute for Laboratory Animal Science at the University of Zurich.

Switzerland’s animal research in numbers for 2016

The statistics for animal research conducted in Switzerland in 2016 were released today. We have translated these tables to English and these data are summarized below. Overall, there were 629,773 animals used in research and animal testing in Switzerland in 2016 — a 7.7% decrease compared to the previous year.

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Animal research in Switzerland for 2016 by species [Click to Enlarge]

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Animal research in Switzerland by species and use.
* We have added a column titled Total 2015 to aid with the ease of comparison to the previous year.

According to the Federal Veterinary Office, the BLV, this decrease is “mainly due to the completion of various projects with a large number of fish and amphibians”. Most of these animals were involved in basic research (64.4%), with “discovery, development and quality control” being the next most common (19.4%). The remainder were used for other reasons including disease diagnosis, education and training and protecting the environment. Mice were again the most prevalently used species (65.19%).

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97.1% of the animals used in research and testing was conducted on mice, rats, fish, and birds, similar to other European countries. Monkeys (198), cats (411) and dogs (616) together accounted for 0.2% of all research animals, with an overall decrease of 2553 animals from 2015 for these species.

Severity in Switzerland works in the follow way (Translated definitions of the severity grading procedure for animals used in experiments in Switzerland):

The following four categories are used for constraints on animals resulting from procedures or measures in the context of animal experiments:

  • Severity grade 0: no constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that do not inflict pain, sufffering or harm on the animals, engendr fear or impair their general well-being;
  • Severity grade 1: mild constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause short-term mild pain or harm or mild impairment of general well-being;
  • Severity grade 2: moderate constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause short-term moderate or medium-long term mild pain, suffering or harm, short term moderate fear or short to medium-term severe impairment of general well-being;
  • Severity grade 3: severeconstraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause medium to long-term moderate pain or severe pain, medium to long term moderate harm or severe harm, long-term severe fear or a severe impairement of general well-being

Pain, suffering and harm, were also measured and classified under four grades of severity; 0, 1, 2 and 3. In 2016, 38% of experiments were Grade 0, 31% were Grade 1, 21% were Grade 2 and 2% were Grade 3.

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Severity of animal experiments by species, 2016

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Severity grade data are only available from 1997 onwards

These numbers are relatively consistent across time, with on average 78% of all animals being exposed to no or minor short-lasting pain and distress.

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Overall there has been a steady downward trend in the number of animals used in research in Switzerland over the last 30 years.

See details of Switzerland’s 2015 statistics.

 

Jeremy D. Bailoo

Research with dogs develops an artificial pancreas to treat diabetes

White Coat Waste is a conservative animal rights organization devoted to the elimination of animal research. Its first target is biomedical research conducted using dogs at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Unfortunately, this campaign is gaining traction. While White Coat Waste is supported mainly by Republicans, some Democrat representatives like Dina Titus (Nevada) and Ted Lieu (California) have expressed their support. In view of that, it is important to highlight the remarkable achievements of dog research at the VA and the tremendous loss that its cancellation would be for Veterans and the general public. 

Diabetes is a nasty disease that affects millions of people worldwide and continues to increase. It is a metabolic disorder in which the body becomes incapable of controlling the blood levels of glucose, either because the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin (type 1) or because cells in the body fail to respond to insulin (type 2). Untreated, diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, neuropathic pain, gangrene of the extremities, amputations, blindness, and death. In 2014, 422 million people had diabetes worldwide (8.5% of the population). These numbers have more than tripled since 1980 (108 million; 4.7% of the population) and continue to increase due to poor dietary habits and lack of exercise. The annual number of deaths worldwide was estimated at 4.9 million in 2014. The incidence of diabetes is particularly high in the USA and other developed countries, but it is increasing fast in Asia and Africa. In the USA, diabetes has a high impact in Veterans: one in four patients receiving care at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has diabetes. This makes it a high priority for medical research at the VA.

People with serious cases of diabetes need multiple daily injections of insulin. Failure to administer the insulin appropriately can lead to kidney failure, amputations, blindness, coma, and even death. However, the dose of insulin has to be tuned to the needs of the body. To do this, patients measure the glucose level in their blood by drawing blood from their fingers using needle sticks. This has to be done several times a day in order to calculate and inject insulin according to the blood glucose levels. An artificial pancreas has been developed at the VA to help improve the outcomes for diabetic patients. This device measures glucose in the blood in real time and automatically administers the right dose of insulin. This technology will dramatically improve the patient’s quality of life and reduce life-threatening complications. It would also tremendously reduce diabetes-related healthcare costs.

The artificial pancreas uses a reconfigured smart phone as part of its system. Image by UVA

This research project was initiated decades ago by Dr. Seymour Levin, a VA endocrinologist who specialized in diabetes and was horrified by the large number of VA patients who needed amputations because of problems with properly administering insulin to treat their diabetes. He obtained funds from the Mann Foundation. In the early 1980s, the Mann Foundation created a company called MiniMed Technologies to design an insulin pump that patients could wear throughout the day. MiniMed Technologies used dogs at the VA diabetes laboratory to test prototypes of this pump. In the early 2000s the company was acquired by Medtronic, which has been fully supporting this research project ever since. No taxpayer money has been used for it, a detail that seems to be important for White Coat Waste.

Taking advantage of new computer technology, the device being developed incorporates not only an insulin pump but also a glucose sensor and software to calculate the amount of insulin to be injected into the blood according to the glucose level. This makes it a true artificial pancreas. Working with dogs allows researchers to do the pre-clinical testing of the artificial pancreas required for approval by the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the same time that the hardware and the software are refined and improved.

Why use dogs for this research project? Animals like mice, rats or guinea pigs are too small for the devices being tested and their blood volume is not large enough to allow for frequent blood sampling without causing them harm. On the other hand, dogs have been an important model for metabolic studies and can replicate human diabetes quite well (much early research into diabetes and insulin relied on research in dogs). They can also be used for long-term studies lasting years, which are not possible in rodents. The sensors and catheters implanted in the dogs are the same ones to be used in humans, and the dogs adapt very well to wearing them. Dogs also like interacting with humans and can be trained to go along with these painless procedures without needing to be anesthetized or restrained. Other large animals like pigs and sheep were tried and were found to be far less suitable than dogs for this work.

The standard procedure consists of having the dog rest on a soft bed, unrestrained. Glucose sensors are inserted under the skin and an insulin pump is attached via a subcutaneous catheter (similar to a human patient using these devices). The procedures are painless and the dog soon becomes habituated to them. The dog is given a small amount of glucose solution to raise its blood-glucose level in order to see how the experimental sensor, software, and pump respond. Blood samples are then tested on a large and expensive glucose analyzer to see how well the sensor is working.

The dogs in the VA diabetes research project are very well cared for, and the diabetic ones are maintained on insulin pumps. Pet dogs sometimes develop diabetes as they age. Just like humans, they develop cataracts, kidney problems and all the other complications of diabetes. Even when they are given insulin injections under a veterinarian’s care, they all die within 1-2 years. In contrast, the diabetic dogs in this research program are maintained free of symptoms by the insulin pumps and live at least a decade with no cataracts or other diabetes complications. Non-diabetic dogs are adopted out at the end of the study period whenever feasible.

dog, animal testing, animal experiment

Beagle in research

On September 28, 2016, the FDA approved the first artificial pancreas, the Medtronic’s MiniMed 670G System, intended to automatically monitor blood-glucose levels and adjust basal insulin doses in people with type 1 diabetes. The pre-clinical testing of this device was all done on dogs at the VA diabetes research laboratory. However, the research project is ongoing and much work remains to be done. If it is canceled due to political pressure from White Coat Waste, it would be a huge loss for Veterans and the millions of people worldwide who need more reliable ways to treat their diabetes.

Juan Carlos Marvizon, Ph.D.

References:

  1. Grosman B, Voskanyan G, Loutseiko M, Roy A, Mehta A, Kurtz N, Parikh N, Kaufman FR, Mastrototaro JJ, Keenan B. Model-based sensor-augmented pump therapy. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2013 Mar 1;7(2):465-77.
  2. Loutseiko M, Voskanyan G, Keenan DB, Steil GM. Closed-loop insulin delivery utilizing pole placement to compensate for delays in subcutaneous insulin delivery. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2011 Nov 1;5(6):1342-51.
  3. Panteleon AE, Loutseiko M, Steil GM, Rebrin K. Evaluation of the effect of gain on the meal response of an automated closed-loop insulin delivery system. Diabetes. 2006 Jul;55(7):1995-2000.

Research Roundup: Heart regeneration, understanding of organ rejection, the saliva of ticks and more

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.

  • An understanding of the genetics that allow sea anemone to regenerate their heart could one day help human patients. Sea anemones are quite unique when compared to typical vertebrates (e.g. humans) — for example, they have genes that can produce heart cells even though they themselves do not have a heart. The also have the capacity to to regenerate where, for example, if an anemone is cut into pieces, each piece will regenerate into a new anemone. When analyzing the relationship between this regeneration capability and the functioning  of the “heart genes” in sea anemones, scientists at the University of Florida discovered that the genes interact with one another differently than human “heart genes”. Heart genes in humans have what are called lockdown loops, which tell the heart genes to turn on and stay on for the entire lifetime of the animal. Sea anemones do not have these lockdown loops, which allows them to turn cells with heart genes into any other kind of cell for regeneration. By further investigating the evolution of lockdown loops for sea anemone to vertebrates, scientists may be able to better understand possibilities for regeneration in vertebrates, who do not currently regenerate tissue — many lizards can regenerate tails, which is another line of research in this field.  This study is a perfect example on how basic research in organisms completely different from humans may one day have large reaching effects on human health. This study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Image courtesy of Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience

  • Earliest molecular events leading to organ rejection identified in mice. Organ rejection remains a problem for transplant recipients — approximately 50% of all transplanted organs are rejected within 10 to 12 years. While methods are available to reduce the risk of organ rejection — such as immunosuppressant drugs — understanding the early molecular steps via which the body identifies cells as “non-self” provides important insight to reduce such risk. Fadi Lakkis, M.D., a senior co-author and scientific director of University of Pittsburgh’s  Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute (STI) says, “For the first time, we have an insight into the earliest steps that start the rejection response.” The team hopes that  manipulating these earliest steps will disrupt the rejection process eliminating or minimizing transplantation failures. The study was a collaborative effort between researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, the Hospital of Sick Kids, the University of Toronto and Kobe University.  Using mice, they identified that a molecule called SIRP-alpha leads to the innate immune system activation and response, and that this molecule differs between non related individuals. In particular, when foreign tissue is transplanted, the SIRP-alpha of this new tissue binds to a receptor called CD47 in the host. This binding is what triggers the activation of the immune system leading to the rejection process. Both humans and mice express SIRP-alpha. Researchers say that sequencing this gene to identify potential donors and recipients may lead to lower organ rejection rates.  They also found that blocking the binding of SIRP-alpha and CD47 prevented the activation which may be used to find new ways to prevent organ rejection for patients that are not an exact match. This research was published in the journal Science Immunology.
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Laboratory mice (image courtesy of NIH)

  • Insight into how humans developed their daytime vision comes from research on chick embryos.  Humans — along with other primates, various fish, reptiles, and birds — have a small spot in the center of their retina that allows them to have sharp vision in the daylight. Although, researchers have long acknowledged the existence of this spot, little has been known about the development of this sharp vision spot, known as the fovea, in humans. Researchers at Harvard Medical School recently investigated the development of this sharp vision spot in chickens, and found that growth factors involved in such development are regulated by enzymes that degrade retinoic acid, a derivative of Vitamin A, that plays important roles in embryonic development. Such pioneering work on the development of structures involved in having sharp vision (e.g. fovea) may help scientists to one day combat medical conditions involved with losing sharp vision (e.g. macular degeneration).
  • A protein found in the saliva of ticks could help treat Myocarditis, according to researchers at the University of Oxford. Ticks are often able to feed on their hosts for over a week thanks to proteins in the saliva, called evasins, which prevent inflammation by binding to and neutralizing chemicals called chemokines. These chemokines also cause inflammation in myocarditis, heart attack and stroke. The scientists were able to grow tick saliva in yeast, using synthetic genes, thereby avoiding needing to individually milk ticks for their saliva. This study was published in Scientific Reports and was funded by the British Heart Foundation.

  • Transcranial stimulation and/or physical therapy improves walking speed in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating movement related disorder that affects approximately 10 million people worldwide. In America alone, this translates into a combined cost of approximately 25 billion dollars a year. Like many diseases with such a high prevalence, research is focused on two key aspects — understanding the etiology and the development of effective treatments of the disorder. Animal models, in mice, primates and other mammals, are integral in making progress in both aspects. For example, transcranial stimulation as a proof of  principle owes much to animal models – both in terms of its development and in relation to its evaluation of efficacy. Here, we see a good example of how basic research in animal models leads to improved quality of life due to a debilitating disease. In humans, these researchers found that noninvasive brain stimulation and physical therapy — alone or in combination — improve some measures of walking ability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This study was published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Doors Open: Explaining animal research at the University of Ottawa

Every June, the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada holds a “Doors Open” event, as part of a larger province-wide initiative to open facilities such as museums, hospitals, and historical sites to the community in ways which aren’t part of their everyday operations. The Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Ottawa opened its labs to the public, offering tours and displays describing the work they do, including their animal research. The University’s Animal Care and Veterinary Service (ACVS) and Animal Ethics & Compliance (AEC) office also participated, with family-friendly informational displays and activities.

The director of the University’s Brain and Mind Research Institute, Dr. David Park, hosted the event this year, as the Faculty of Medicine felt it would be a great way to highlight the leading edge research done at the University. Dr. Diane Lagace, a researcher in the department, demonstrated the preclinical work she is involved with in her lab, using rats and mice in stroke research. Dr Lagace also studies how adult-generated stem cells play a part in how we can recover from strokes.

Displays featured information about animal use at the university, and research-related activities for children. Photo credit: Hilalion (San) Ahn

The animal care displays were run by the ACVS and AEC. Their displays included enriched caging for rats, enrichment devices and treats for the research animals, as well as a demo for children on how to use microchips to identify some species. Volunteers provided the public with informational pamphlets and explanations on the university’s animal care and use program, as well as the regulatory framework that protects animals used in research.

Dr. Holly Orlando, University Veterinarian and Director of ACVS, wanted her department to take part because she felt that it is important to be transparent about the work that we do with animals in science. By doing so, her department could help to clarify misconceptions that the public may have about work with animals, as well as helping to develop engagement with the community. Marie Bédard, the AEC Director, agrees and has been developing materials for the public and explaining the regulatory frameworks for animal use in science.

I also took part, as the Registered Veterinary Technician who manages the zebrafish operations at the University. I brought live zebrafish larvae at various points of development for visitors to observe under microscopes. I also brought examples of what we feed the fish, and how we house them.

Zebrafish larvae on display. Photo credit: Hilalion (San) Ahn.

The facility tours were very popular, with guests able to observe the work of the Animal Behaviour Core facility, which utilizes procedures such as a water maze, climbing, treadmill and other exercise tests to study both how brain deficits occur and can be repaired after a stroke, as well as when and what forms of exercise are helpful for stroke recovery. Guests also observed a Parkinson’s Disease model in fruit flies, which helps researchers to better understand the genetics and other causes behind Parkinson’s disease.

Over 250 people registered for the event and went on tours of the facility. Feedback was very positive, and the public had very thoughtful questions about the operations of both the labs and the animal facility. People were overheard stating that they “never would have imagined that this is happening here in Ottawa”, and more than one youngster exclaimed that they wanted to work with us.

The Director of Animal Ethics and Compliance, discusses enriched rat caging. Photo credit: Hilalion (San) Ahn

This one day event was a great step forward in openness with regards to animal research at the University. A great team did a fantastic job organizing and running the day, which seemed to go off without a hitch. I am looking forward to attending again next year, with an even bigger display!

Christine Archer

USDA publishes 2016 animal research statistics – 7% rise in animal use

The USDA/APHIS has published the 2016 animal research statistics. Overall, the number of animals (covered by the Animal Welfare Act) used in research in the US rose 6.9% from 767,622 (2015) to 820,812 (2016). This includes both public and private institutions.

These statistics do not include all animals as most mice, rats, and fish are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act – though they are still covered by other regulations that protect animal welfare. We also have not included the 137,444 animals which were kept in research facilities in 2016 but were not involved in any research studies.

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Click to Enlarge

The statistics show that 52% of research is on guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, 10% is on farm animal species, while 11% is on dogs or cats and 9% on non-human primates. In the UK, where mice, rats, fish and birds are counted in the annual statistics, over 97% of research is on rodents, birds and fish. Across the EU, which measures animal use slightly differently, 93% of research is on species not counted under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). If similar proportions were applied the US, the total number of vertebrates used in research in the US would be between 12 and 27 million, however, there are no published statistics to confirm this.

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Comparing the 2015 and 2016 statistics there has been a small rise in the use of most species, apart from dogs (down 0.2%) and cats (down 5.2%). The largest rises were found in non-human primates (up 15%) and sheep (up 14%). Furthermore, it should be noted that this 6.9% rise comes a year after an 8% fall, putting the total number of animals used in 2016 slightly below the levels in 2014.

Animals used in researchand testing in the US 1973 - 2016

Trend in number of animals used in research in the US, 1973 – 2016 – Click to Enlarge

There has been a general downward trend in the number of animals used in the US over the past three decades; the number of animals used has more than halved (from 1.8million in 1986), with the use of dogs and cats down by over 65%. It is likely that a move towards using more genetically altered mice and fish has reduced the numbers of many other AWA-covered animals used. That said, non-human primates are one of the few species to have risen in use, from an average of 54,000 animals per year from 1977-2006, to 67,000 in 2007-2016.

In the UK, where mice, rats, fish and birds are counted in the annual statistics, over 97% of research is on rodents, birds and fish. Across the EU, which measures animal use slightly differently, 93% of research is on species not counted under the Animal Welfare Act. If similar proportions were applied the US, the total number of vertebrates used in research in the US would be between 12 and 27 million.

Rises and falls in the number of animals used reflects many factors including the level of biomedical activity in a country, trending areas of research, changes to legislations at home and abroad, outsourcing research to and from other countries, and new technologies (which may either replace animal studies or create reasons for new animal experiments).

The annual statistics are one example of openness and transparency in animal research, but the last few years have seen a greater number of institutions from all over the world publically acknowledging their animal research in statements on their website. This week, two separate openness initiatives were announced, with Americans for Medical Progress launching their “Come See Our World” website of free-to-use animal research images, and Understanding Animal Research promoting a 3D tour of four animal facilities in the UK.

Using the virtual tour you walk around real research facilities like this one at the University of Oxford.

On the subject of openness, it was disappointing that neither the USDA, nor APHIS decided to press release the figures when they were released on June 7th 2017, or even mention them in the website’s News and Announcements. The US could follow the past example of the UK, where the Home Office, in conjunction with the Science Media Centre, held a press conference each year to announce the annual statistics and to offer experts to explain and discuss the numbers.

Source of US Statistics:

Speaking of Research Coverage:

We will continue to bring you the latest national statistics as and when they are released.

Speaking of Research