Animal experiments are used for scientific purposes, mostly within research in medicine and science. The aim is to develop new drugs, new treatment methods or to increase our basic knowledge of how the body functions.
Most of the medical research at Lund University is conducted in test tubes or using cell culture techniques. As far as possible, animal experiments are not used.
However, there are research studies in which animal experiments provide us with knowledge that we are not yet able to acquire in any other way. This knowledge can lead to better diagnosis and treatment of many diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, stroke and lung diseases.
All animal experiments are ethically reviewed
Animal experiments are strictly regulated under Swedish legislation as well as EU legislation on the protection of animals. Animal experiments are only permitted where no alternative methods are available.
In order to conduct animal experiments in Sweden, researchers must first apply for permission to an animal experiment ethical review board, which will run an ethical review of the proposed research study. The research is to be conducted according to a protocol which has been reviewed and approved by the regional animal experiment ethical review board in Malmö/Lund.
The chair and vice chair are lawyers. Of the twelve remaining members, one half are researchers, animal experiment technicians or animal experiment staff. The other half are lay people. Some of them are representatives of animal rights organisations.
Careful monitoring of the animals
The public authority responsible for the rules and issues concerning animal experiments is the Swedish Board of Agriculture. A director at Lund University, appointed and approved by the Board of Agriculture, supervises the experiments to ensure that they are conducted according to current provisions. Regular inspections are also carried out by the County Council.
All laboratory animals used in scientific experiments at Lund University’s Faculty of Medicine are bred for that purpose. This means that they are bred exclusively for use in research experiments. No experiments are conducted on animals caught in the wild or otherwise sourced.
The animal’s environment is designed according to specific regulations concerning space, feed and hygiene, including requirements for stimulation. If the slightest uncertainty prevails concerning the welfare of an animal, it is assessed by a veterinary physician.
All staff is trained
All staff that conduct animal experiments at Lund University – researchers, students and animal keepers – must by law be trained in animal experimentation. The training includes applicable legislation, ethics, animal rearing, designing experiments and alternative methods as well as practical and theoretical knowledge of the components relevant to the intended experiment.
Can the results be used?
It is sometimes claimed that results from experiments on animals cannot be applied to people as animals and people would react differently to drugs, for example.
In principle, all drugs are, in some developmental phase, tested on animals to a greater or lesser extent. Many of today’s medical treatments and diagnotic methods would not exist without research using animal experiments.
What animals are used for experiments at the Faculty of Medicine?
Mice and rats are the animal species most used within medical research at Lund University.
The number of laboratory animals at the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University in 2020, approximate figures: 27 600 mice, 2000 rats, 1 400 zebrafish, 160 rabbits, 8 pigs, 50 frogs, 40 sheep and 600 domestic chickens (embryos).
It is desirable for everyone to minimise both the number of laboratory animals and their individual suffering. In addition, animal experiments are expensive, time-consuming and complicated to conduct. If the purpose of the study can be achieved with some other, alternative method, the law prescribes that this alternative method is to be used. This could mean using cell cultures or samples of human tissue, for example.
The 3R concept - Replace, Refine, and Reduce – is key:
- Replace - Replace with animal-free experimentation methods where possible.
- Refine - Refine the methods so as to minimise pain and other effects on the animals.
- Reduce - Design the experiments so as to use as few animals as possible
The researchers are constantly working to develop new methods to replace animal experiments. For example, researchers at Lund University receive grants from the Swedish Research Council to research “alternative methods to animal experimentation”.