Methods which avoid or replace the use of animals
Before any animal research is approved, we ask whether animals are needed at all to properly answer the given scientific question.
The increasing sophistication of computer modelling, in vitro biochemistry, and research using cell and tissue culture methods means that a significant amount of data can be obtained without the use of live animals.
The use of regulated species can often then be limited to the later stages of a programme of work where it is important to confirm that findings from other systems hold true in a model closer to a live human being.
- Thanks to the Cambridge BioResource, some of our research, including that investigating how the immune system changes with age and methods to understand the 3D genome, uses blood samples collected from volunteers.
- Development of a new fly model of motor neuron degeneration, using fly legs, provides a method to study age-dependent neuron degeneration at single cell resolution. Being able to study the process of neuron degeneration in a fly reduces the number of mice needed for this purpose.
- In some cases, modelling can entirely replace animal research. For instance, a complete computational model of human metabolism (research publication) provides a better way to explore metabolic syndromes than using animals, which have a different metabolic network.
- Research at the Institute is using yeast, worms and cell culture to understand fundamental mechanisms of genetic and epigenetic regulation. Although processes such as ageing and dietary control are widely considered to be features of higher animals, these are largely governed by ancient biochemical pathways that existed in the earliest eukaryotes. We can therefore learn underlying principles of these critical processes by studying individual cells and simple organisms.