Researchers at UEA recently received £90,000 worth of funding for a new project that aims to reduce the use of rats and mice in medical testing.

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The scientists plan to use mammalian cells, early frog embryos and computer modelling in a bid to create a new way of predicting drug toxicity. It is hoped that this new model would reduce the need for animal testing in medical research. The funding was provided as part of a £1.26m grant from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

The screening tool will be developed as a collaborative project between Dr Grant Wheeler from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences and Dr Vicky Sherwood from UEA’s School of Pharmacy, as well as Dr Dominic Williams at the University of Liverpool.

Dr Grant Wheeler, overseeing the project said: “Drug toxicity is an important concern in the development of pharmaceuticals that are effective and safe for use in patients. Currently this requires the use of a large number of animals to ensure that new drugs are non-toxic and therefore safe to use in human clinical trials. According to the Home Office almost 80,000 rats and mice were used in studies on drug testing in 2012 alone. This is a huge number of animals, so any new protocols that can reduce this burden on animal testing could have a huge impact in significantly reducing the number of animals used for drug safety testing each year.”

Dr Wheeler added that thay were aiming to to develop such a protocol using a combination of mammalian cell lines, early frog embryos and computer modelling “we will then check how well our protocol can predict toxicity in small rodents by comparing our results with those already documented in rats and mice.”

UEA currently uses animal experimentation on rats, mice and Xenopus frogs as part of its medical research. The University experimented on some 6,248 animals between July 2012 and July 2013, the majority of which were mice. 5070 of the animals were killed.

Experiments in which animal testing was used included scientific research into cancer, arthritis and muscular dystrophy.