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BBSRC researcher wins 2015 3Rs prize

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News from: National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research

Outstanding published research has been given awards in this year’s 3Rs Prize competition including to a BBSRC-funded researcher.

The awards are run by the NC3Rs, a leading UK organisation dedicated to replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in research, and are sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Towards better dog welfare – small changes with big impact

Joint winner of the prize was the work of Dr Laura Hall, University of Stirling, to improve the technique of oral dosing in dogs. The research, funded by BBSRC and published in the Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods, demonstrates that a refined protocol using positive reinforcement training with food rewards, a signal for dosing, and covering the dosing tube in palatable paste during training, minimises stress in the dogs compared to the standard approach, and also has the advantages of allowing researchers to dose the dogs more quickly and efficiently.

Most laboratory dogs in the UK are used for safety testing, and oral dosing is one of the most common procedures used during these tests. Typically, prior to testing of the drugs the dogs are ‘sham’ dosed in order to familiarise the animals with the gavage procedure. The assumption is that this minimises any stress the dogs may subsequently experience. However, this paper provides evidence to show that sham dosing has a negative impact on welfare. This may have implications for sham dosing in other species.

Dr Hall, who is about to launch her own website, Refining Dog Care, to disseminate the results of this work, said: “Over 3,500 dogs are used in research and testing in the UK every year, and yet we know little about their welfare or the effect of welfare on the data obtained from their use. I am delighted that the NC3Rs has recognised the importance of this research for the welfare of laboratory housed dogs. We are now building upon our collaboration with AstraZeneca by working with organisations using dogs in the UK to develop further refinements and share best practice.”

The other joint winner describes a 3D model of the embryonic human brain created from stem cells. These so-called ‘cerebral organoids’ represent a major scientific breakthrough because for the first time the complexity and structure of the developing brain has been replicated in vitro. This has significant implications not only for studying neurological diseases but also for replacing some animal studies.

The NC3Rs is a leading UK organisation dedicated to replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in research, and the 3Rs Prize is part of its strategy to recognise excellence in science which minimises animal use or improves animal welfare.

Sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, the international NC3Rs Prize is awarded every year to the authors of an original research paper published within the last three years with outstanding scientific or technological potential to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research. Applications are judged by an expert Panel. The prize consists of a grant of £18k, plus a personal award of £2k.

Professor Ian Kimber OBE chair of the Prize Panel, said: “The task of the Panel in reaching decisions about the annual NC3Rs prize is always formidable, but this year was more challenging than ever. There were some outstanding nominations describing truly ground-breaking research. On this occasion, for the first time, two awards have been made. The substantial achievements made by these joint winners are very different, and serve to illustrate the breadth of the science that can impact on the 3Rs. The Panel congratulate the winners, and the highly commended awardee, for their remarkable work.”


Notes to editors

Winning research papers

Hall LE, Robinson S, Buchanan-Smith HM (2015). Refining dosing by oral gavage in the dog: A protocol to harmonise welfare. Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods 72: 35-46 doi:10.1016/j.vascn.2014.12.007
Funding: The work was supported by the BBSRC.

Lancaster M et al. (2013). Cerebral organoids model human brain development and microcephaly. Nature 501(7497): 373-9
Funding: The work was supported by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), and post-doctoral fellowships from EMBO and the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation (HHWF).

About NC3Rs

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is a leading independent scientific organisation dedicated to replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in research and testing (the 3Rs). It supports the UK science base by driving and funding innovation and technological developments that minimise the need for animals in research and testing, and lead to improvements in welfare where animals continue to be used. It funds research, supports training and development, and stimulates changes in regulations and practice.

Primarily funded by Government, the NC3Rs is also supported by the charitable and private sectors. It works with scientists in universities and industry in the UK and internationally.

Further information can be found at: @nc3rs

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