Universiteit Leiden

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Dossier

The 3 Rs

We aim to keep experiments on animal to a minimum. We therefore assess every study whether full account has been taken to implement the 3 Rs: replace, reduce, refine. The Animal Welfare Body advises researchers on this. By training our staff and provide further courses, we are able to continuously refine and reduce the experiments on animals conducted at Leiden University.

1. Replacing animal experiments

There are some occasions where alternatives to experiments on animals are a possibility. For example, researchers can replace certain experiments on animals by using cell cultures, or conduct research to vascular problems using human tissue. Our smart experiments also form the basis of animal-free vaccine testing using human tissue. In addition, our scientists, in research groups such as Predictive Pharmacology, are also developing computer models that will avoid the necessity for animal testing altogether.

Another example is the use of fish larvae instead of adult zebrafish. The nervous systems of the larvae are not yet fully developed, which means the discomfort caused to them will be less than for adult zebrafish. Once the research with fish larvae has produced promising results, we can then consider conducting further research with adult fish or other species of animals. Research on fish larvae does not fall under the Experiments on Animals Act.

2. Reducing animal experiments

In answering research questions, we aim to keep the use of laboratory animals to an absolute minimum. We therefore ensure that the design and implementation of all experiments are of the highest possible standard. By applying new analysis methods, focusing for example on DNA, we try to answer our research questions without the need for animal testing. Finally, we use advanced imaging techniques to monitor an animal over the course of time. This allows us to avoid the use of several animals to obtain results at different points in time.

3. Refining animal experiments

All our facilities for small laboratory animals meet the requirements for housing animals. A vet supports the health monitoring programme for the different laboratory animals. The welfare of the animals is monitored on a daily basis.  Additionally adequate anaesthesia and pain relief are included in procedures with laboratory animals.

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