06
November
2017
|
12:30
Europe/London

Ten leading universities conduct over one third of all UK animal research

As part of the ongoing commitment to greater openness about animal research, the ten universities which conduct the most animal procedures have publicised their figures today, revealing that they collectively conducted a third of all UK animal research in 2016. All ten universities appear in the QS World University Ranking Top 100.

The top ten institutions conduct more than two thirds of all UK university animal research between them, completing a combined total of 1.4 million procedures. Over 99% of these procedures were carried out on rodents or fish, and in line with national data they were almost evenly split between experimental work and the breeding of genetically modified animals.

The ten universities are listed below alongside the total number of procedures that they carried out in 2016. Each institution’s name links to its animal research webpage which includes more detailed statistics. This is the second year in a row universities have come together to collectively publicise their numbers and examples of their research.

University

Total (2016)

University of Oxford

217,765

University College London

203,744

University of Edinburgh

203,285

University of Manchester

174,120

University of Cambridge

155,394

King's College London

155,058

Imperial College London

101,369

University of Sheffield

83,130

University of Birmingham

54,728

University of Glasgow

50,566

All universities are committed to the ‘3Rs’ of replacement, reduction and refinement. This means avoiding or replacing the use of animals where possible, minimising the number of animals used per experiment and minimising suffering to improve animal welfare. However, as universities expand and conduct more research, the total number of animals used can rise even if fewer animals are used per study.

All ten universities are signatories to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, a commitment to be more open about the use of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research in the UK. 116 organisations have signed the concordat including UK universities, charities, research funders and commercial research organisations.

The Concordat has fostered a culture of openness at research institutions up and down the country. Institutions now provide an unprecedented level of information about how and why they conduct medical, veterinary and scientific research using animals. Almost two-thirds of the university Concordat signatories provide their animal numbers openly on their website – accounting for almost 90% of all animal research at UK universities
Wendy Jarrett, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research

Wendy Jarrett, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research, which developed the Concordat on Openness, said:“The Concordat has fostered a culture of openness at research institutions up and down the country. Institutions now provide an unprecedented level of information about how and why they conduct medical, veterinary and scientific research using animals. Almost two-thirds of the university Concordat signatories provide their animal numbers openly on their website – accounting for almost 90% of all animal research at UK universities.

Animal research has played a key role in the development of virtually every medicine that we take for granted today. However, despite decades of dedicated research, many widespread and debilitating conditions are still untreatable. Medical research is a slow process with no easy answers, but animal research helps to take us incrementally closer to treatments for cancer, dementia, stroke and many other debilitating conditions.

While many animal studies do not lead directly to treatments for diseases, ‘basic’ or ‘fundamental’ research helps scientists to understand different processes in the body and how they can go wrong, underpinning future efforts to diagnose and treat various conditions. Additionally, many studies will show that a line of research is not worth pursuing. Although this can be disappointing, such research is incredibly valuable as scientists need to know which methods do not work and why so that they can develop new ones. Animal studies can also help to answer a wide range of research questions that are not directly related to diseases, such as exploring how genes determine traits or how brain functions develop.

Case study

The use of genetic therapy to treat advanced retinal degeneration and blindness is a fast developing area of medical science, in response to the needs of an increasingly elderly population across the world. The University of Manchester’s contribution to this research drive involves developing a new type of gene therapy to reprogram cells deep in the eye to sense light. The ultimate aim is to treat all types of blindness caused by damaged or missing rods and cones, the eye’s light receptor cells. These developments have been made possible by advances in gene transfer technology. For instance, the team injects into blind mice the human gene for rhodopsin, a pigment that detects light. This enables other cells that lie deeper within the retina to capture light. By giving these cells the ability to produce their own light-detecting pigment, they can to some extent compensate for the loss of rods and cones.

Find out more about research involving animals at Manchester on our dedicated website.

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