XIV. USING ANIMALS IN RESEARCH
Many types of biomedical research continue to require use of laboratory animals, despite efforts to maximize alternatives such as cell cultures, computer simulations, and mathematical models. For example, studies of human and animal disease rely on animal research for much of their progress. Another example is the widespread use of animals to produce antibodies for both medical applications and basic biological studies. The value of knowledge gained from research involving animal use has been, and continues to be, immeasurable. Development of poliomyelitis vaccine, surgical procedures to replace diseased heart valves, corneal transplants to restore normal vision, and the discovery of chemical agents that cure or slow childhood cancers are all examples of achievements, based on studies of animals, that have extended the length and quality of human life.
In recent years, major efforts have been made by regulatory agencies, research institutions, and research workers to standardize and improve the care and treatment of animals used in research. The "animals" actually covered by law are the vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals). A major objective has been to make their treatment and care as humane as possible within the constraints of each particular research project. Pain and distress are reduced as much as possible in the design of experiments, and analgesics and anesthetics are used to minimize pain during and after surgery or any other required painful procedure. In addition, guidelines have been established to help limit the number of animals used to that really necessary, to avoid repetition of research already performed previously, and to promote the use of non-vertebrate models (invertebrates, cultures, simulations) whenever possible.
Animals used in research are captive living creatures, and, as noted above, a major concern is to provide them
with humane care and treatment. Their use must be monitored, according to law, by a local "Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee" (IACUC) at every major research institution. This committee is made up of institutional personnel, a lay person, and a veterinarian. Animal care facilities must meet legal requirements, and they are inspected periodically both by the IACUC and by external agencies. The animals must be observed daily by lab or Animal Facility workers and, if something unusual is detected in their behavior or appearance, they must be checked by a veterinarian and treated if necessary. Proper care of research animals is more than simply humane, however; it is good science! Uniformly healthy animals are likely to yield more consistent and reliable research data.
This module is designed as brief introduction to the care
and use of animals in biomedical research.
It is intended to make you aware of current general practices and regulations, with the expectation that such awareness will be of value whether or not you enter a research lab that actually uses animals. Please note, however, that this module is not a substitute for detailed animal use training/certification sessions required for all personnel who handle, maintain, or use vertebrates in any way (including laboratory courses). These training/certification sessions are offered periodically by the Hunter College IACUC and the Animal Care Facility staff.
Proceed to Exercise #1. The video that you are about to see will give you additional guidelines on animal research requirements, and introduce you to various associated problems in greater depth.
Obtain and view the videotape labeled "The Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals". When finished (about 30 min.), rewind the tape in the rewinder, and return it to its original storage place. Then proceed to Exercise #2.
Find the BIOMEDICAL INVESTIGATOR'S HANDBOOK on the reference materials shelf of the Tech Facility. Browse through it. This book covers most of the requirements concerning animal research.
Before starting a project, all research proposals involving animals must be carefully reviewed and approved at each research facility by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) comprised of scientists, veterinarian, and at least one private citizen. For this purpose, the IACUC protocol form must be completed by the primary research investigator (or Professor, in the case of a laboratory course), and then it must be submitted to the IACUC for approval. Proceed to Exercise #3.
In this exercise we want you to look at IACUC protocol review form which is found in the Reference Material Shelf of the Techniques Facility.
If you want to know and see more about the use of animals in research, call the Hunter College Animal Facility and request a tour. With written Faculty permission, you can also attend an animal care and use training session.