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Alternatives to animal experiments: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement

We aim to conduct as few animal experiments as possible. We are continually exploring methods to Replace, Reduce, and Refine animal experiments, commonly referred to as the three Rs. Additionally, we assess each study to ensure the implementation of the 3Rs has been maximised. The Animal Welfare Body advises scientists in this endeavor.

1. Replacing animal experiments

Sometimes it’s possible to entirely replace an experiment with an alternative. By employing new techniques and methods, we can increasingly address research questions without resorting to animal experiments. For example, by analysing DNA. Sometimes, researchers can also replace certain animal experiments with cell cultures or explore vascular problems using human tissue. We also devise smart ways to test the quality and safety of vaccines without using laboratory animals. Furthermore, scientists in research groups like Predictive Pharmacology are developing computer models that can replace the use of animals.

Another example involves the use of fish larvae instead of adult zebrafish. The nervous system of the larvae is not yet fully developed. As a result, they experience little to no pain, resulting in less discomfort compared to adult animals. If research with fish larvae yields promising results, further investigations can then be considered with adult fish or other animal species. Because fish larvae are not yet fully developed, they do not fall under the Dutch Animals Experiments Act.

2. Reducing animal experiments

We aim to minimise the use of laboratory anumals to only what is strictly necessary to address a research question. To achieve this, we ensure that the design and execution of all experiments meet the highest standards. Additionally, we use advanced imaging techniques to monitor animals over extended periods. For instance, with MRI scans, surgical procedures on animals are no longer necessary, allowing us to observe animals at various stages of their lives. This approach prevents the need for multiple animals to obtain results at different point in time.

3. Refinement animal experiments

We are constantly working to refine our animal experiments to reduce distress for the experimental animals and optimise their well-being as much as possible. All our facilities for small laboratory animals meet the necessary standards for housing. A veterinarian oversees the health monitoring programme for the different animals. The well-being of the animals is monitored daily. Moreover, proper anesthesia and pain relief protocols are implemented in all procedures involving laboratory animals.

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