Raising awareness about animal research
Pupils from schools and colleges across Greater Manchester have been learning about animal research at The University of Manchester as part of a special open day.
The University opened its doors to over 40 A-level students to show why in certain situations, where alternatives are not available, animal research is used by researchers.
The event comes after the University – alongside other research-intensive universities, funding bodies and other organisations – committed itself to a process for moving towards a Concordat to develop principles of openness in animal research.
The pupils from Bury College, Holy Cross College, Parrswood High School, Cronton Sixth Form, Wilmslow High School and Xaverian College heard how scientists and researchers were looking for cures in cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s as well as age-related deterioration. They also had a tour of the laboratories to see how animals were kept and got a taste of how fly research is done, diagnosing real flies under the microscope.
Professor Matthew Cobb, from the Faculty of Life Sciences who took part in the day, said: “The visit allowed students to experience first-hand the conditions and high standards of care standards we give to our animals. They saw mice, some of which are genetically modified by deletion or insertion of genes, or genes that can be switched on and off.
“They learnt about epilepsy research in flies and compared how young flies and their grandparents perform at climbing, to learn about ageing and how it can be studied. Believe it or not, we have lots in common with fruit flies. Many of our organs and structures have the same origins and serve the same purposes. They are encoded by the same genes. Deciphering the functions of these genes can be done relatively easily in the fly. Applying this knowledge from Drosophila flies to humans and human disease is a powerful and effective strategy.”
Mark McElwee, Deputy Head at Parrswood High School said: “The event was really worthwhile. The pupils gained a real insight into the realities of animal research. It definitely opened their eyes to the potential of animal research for medical benefits and in fact it changed some of their opinions.
“They were also amazed at the care and dedication put into ensuring the well-being of the animals.The feedback from the pupils is that some were so inspired they are seriously considering changing their UCAS applications to go into biological sciences.”
Karolina Zaezyczny, aged 17, from Holy Cross College, said: “The open day did change my view. It’s made me aware of the positive things and why scientists sometimes have to use animals in their research. I was very impressed with the facilities the animals were kept in.”
Notes for editors
The University recognises that the life sciences sector is at the forefront of developing ground-breaking treatments and cures which transform the lives of humans and animals and to do this researchers sometimes need to increase understanding of normal biological functions and disease. Where possible, they use cells grown in a lab, computer models and human volunteers, but when this is not possible, research may involve animals. When researchers need to use animals, they strive to reduce the number needed, and seek to develop viable alternatives.
The University is very committed to research designed to reduce, refine and replace animals used for scientific purposes (this is referred to as 'the 3Rs').