Many of the diseases that cause suffering have no treatment. Understanding how the body functions and how diseases develop, and searching for cures or treatments, involve many years of work and effort. There is undoubtedly a consensus among scientists that it remains essential for medical progress to use animal experimentation in some of this research.
Why do we need studies on animals in basic research?
UAB researchers study such health problems as cancer, ictus, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, disorders related to stress, autism, depression and other diseases that cause suffering and death.
This research helps to develop treatments and cures that benefit both us and the animals around us. Much of this knowledge can be acquired through research with cells and tissues isolated in cultures, or even with computer models based on data obtained initially from studies with animals. Nevertheless, the timely and responsible use of animals in research can provide valuable information that serves to advance scientific knowledge further than is possible with alternative methods. This view is reflected in the law, which allows animal research only in specific circumstances, and strictly regulates how animals are used and cared for.
At the UAB, staff who participate in research activities that involve using animals for experiments or other scientific or teaching purposes must be accredited as researchers or experimenters, as required. In addition, researchers must obtain authorisation from the Ethics Committee on Animal and Human Experimentation of the UAB for each experiment or other procedure using animals for scientific or teaching purposes.
Laboratory animals and animal welfare
The UAB believes that limited, regulated use of research animals for scientific purposes is justified in that it serves to advance our knowledge of biological correlates that can help to safeguard or improve our quality of life.
All those involved in research at the UAB strive to minimise both the number of studies conducted using animals and the stress placed on the animals during the procedures. To this end, when designing and performing experiments the principle applied is the "Three Rs" (reduce, refine and replace). Therefore, the number of animals used in each experiment is kept to the minimum (reduction); experiments are performed and animals are handled in such a way that the latter suffer the least stress possible (refinement); and, if possible, experiments with animals give way to alternative methods (replacement).
The original interpretation of the Three Rs focused mainly on the choice of methods and techniques. However, Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of research animals widens the scope of refinement to cover all stabling, breeding and care, even for animals that are not currently being experimented on. At the UAB all research animals are attended to by experienced veterinarians and qualified carers.
Also in line with the above application of the Three Rs, the UAB draws its researchers' attention to the ARRIVE guidelines (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments), an initiative of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), to improve the design, analysis and dissemination of animal research, maximising the information published and minimising unnecessary studies.
Animals used at the UAB: Commitment to transparency (COSCE)
The conviction that information on how animals are being used for experiments and other scientific or teaching purposes is key to understanding both the benefits and the drawbacks and limitations of such use has led the Spanish Confederation of Scientific Societies (COSCE), which groups together over 70 scientific societies representing 40,000 Spanish scientists, to put forward the "COSCE Proposal".
The UAB supports and adheres to this agreement on transparency in the use of animals in scientific experiments, which claims that information must be realistic both in the description of results and regarding the impact on animal welfare and the possible ethical considerations of this practice.
In line with this commitment the UAB publishes statistical information on this website: both on the numbers and species of animals used in experimental procedures, or for other scientific or teaching purposes, and on the actual severity of the procedures themselves, when these are performed by researchers from this university or its attached centres.
Vicente Martínez, member of the CEEAH, has carried out a research work about the animals used in teaching and the assessment of the perception of university students: