Ethical Issues in Animal Research

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1 Ethical Issues in Animal Research

2 Overview Perspectives on Animal Research Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare Benefits of Animal Research Laws and Regulations The IACUC Protocols and the 3 R s AAALAC Accreditation Final Thoughts Resources

3 Perspectives on Animal Research Clearly, a controversial and emotional topic Animal researchers (and supporters) believe that animal models are crucial for understanding diseases and developing medical treatments to benefit humans and animals alike For some people, however, harm to animals is too high a cost to outweigh potential benefits Others view animal research as beneficial, but are especially concerned with the humane treatment of research subjects A distinction is made between animal rights and animal welfare

4 Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare Animal Rights: Animals have inherent legal and moral rights, just like humans. Unethical to use animals for ANY purpose (food, clothing, companionship, etc.) Animal Welfare: Animals must be treated with compassion and must be provided with humane and ethical care. Most researchers agree with and promote this position

5 Benefits of Animal Research Animals and humans are biologically similar and are vulnerable to over 200 of the same health problems (effective models for study) Animal models are more flexible Most medical techniques and treatments used today were originally developed using animal models: Anesthesia, antibiotics, allergy treatments, vitamins, vaccines, surgical procedures Animals also benefit from treatments and medicines developed in animal models

6 Laws and Regulations Regulations at the federal level: Animal Welfare Act (1966): Requires appropriate housing, food and veterinary care for animal subjects, as well as administration of drugs to prevent pain or discomfort (with a few carefully limited exceptions) Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals -- set of guidelines covering the logistics of animal experimentation with which researchers must comply if they receive federal funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

7 The IACUC Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Equivalent of the IRB for human research Required at all institutions receiving federal funding Includes a veterinarian with training in lab animal medicine, a scientist experienced in animal research, a non-scientific member, and at least one member from outside the institution Reviews care and treatment of animals, inspects animal facilities (twice per year), and reports violations

8 Protocols and the 3 R s Researchers outline every aspect of the experiments they plan to conduct over a 3-year period; must be renewed after 3 years Extremely detailed and thorough; often well over 50 pages in length Must be approved by the IACUC before research may begin; changes must also be approved Must address the 3 R s : replacement, refinement, and reduction (Russell & Burch, 1959)

9 The 3 R s : Replacement Methods which either fully or partially replace the use of animals: Computer models Human volunteers Animal cell lines Yeast, invertebrates or fetal mammals/amphibians Not feasible for many types of studies (e.g., learning and memory) Researchers must justify this, however

10 The 3 R s : Refinement Improvements to husbandry and experimental procedures which minimize actual or potential pain, suffering, distress, or lasting harm General improvement of animal welfare in situations where animals must be used Researchers must describe these refinements in their protocol (or justify why such refinements would interfere with the outcome of their studies)

11 The 3 R s : Reduction Methods which minimize animal use while producing comparable levels of data from fewer animals (or more data from the same number of animals): Improvements in experimental design or statistical analysis Use of techniques requiring fewer numbers of animals (e.g., imaging studies) Researchers must justify the number of animals they intend to use in their studies (and must adhere to that number)

12 Reduction Example Say you wish to test two drugs for the treatment of cancer, Drug A and Drug B You could conduct two separate studies, each with one factor and two levels: 1). Drug A vs. Placebo (n = 10 animals per condition) 2). Drug B vs. Placebo (n = 10 animals per condition) This would require 40 animals total

13 Reduction Example Alternatively, you could design your study to have one factor with THREE levels: Drug A vs. Drug B vs. Placebo (n = 10 animals per condition) This would allow you to make the same comparisons as the other two studies (Drug A vs. Placebo and Drug B vs. Placebo), but would only involve 30 animals

14 AAALAC Accreditation Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International Private, non-profit organization Promotes humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment More than 730 institutions are accredited worldwide, including the University of Washington AAALAC standards are even higher than those mandated by law Accreditation is achieved following a rigorous application and inspection process and is maintained by subsequent inspections every 3 years

15 Final Thoughts Animal research clearly benefits both humans and other animals However, this research must be conducted in the most humane way possible, must minimize pain and distress experienced by the animals, and must contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge

16 Resources University of Washington s IACUC: depts.washington.edu/iacuc/ AAALAC International: Americans for Medical Progress: National Institutes of Health:

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