Training on animal experimentation and welfare organised in Luxembourg

2017 - 04 -05

Malou Fraiture

Training on animal experimentation and welfare organised in Luxembourg

Animal experimentation provides essential information to model and understand disease mechanisms which are otherwise impossible to unravel and allows to perform pre-clinical studies, for example on the effect of drug treatments. From December 2016 to March 2017, LIH and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg (UL) organised two training sessions on animal experimentation and welfare for scientists, enabling them to design and perform experiments on small animals by respecting strict ethical and regulatory principles.

Modern animal facilities for small animal models are installed at LIH and at the UL including specific pathogen-free work spaces and rooms to perform experiments involving pathogens. Innovative research projects involving mice, rats and zebrafish as biological models are being conducted at both institutions by giving the utmost importance to animal well-being.

A new training offer

Appropriate education and training of all those engaged in the use of live vertebrate animals for scientific purposes is required by both the Council of Europe and the European Union. Until now Luxembourg-based researchers always had to attend animal experimentation courses at academic institutions abroad. Therefore, a complete training was now organised in Luxembourg corresponding to the requirements for functions A and B defined by the EU Directive 2010/63/EU and following the recommendations of the FELASA (Federation of European Laboratory Science Experimentation). A certificate for function A gives the authorisation to enter an animal facility and conduct experiments. Scientists who do not only perform experiments but also design studies and submit them for ethical approval need to get in addition a certificate for function B. Here, a special focus is put on ethical aspects as well as on reduction in animal use and possible alternatives.

The new training comprised theoretical courses and practical workshops as well as E-learning modules using an online platform, and was followed by exams. It also included a visit of the zebrafish facility at the UL (by Dr Simon Perathoner) and the in vivo magnetic resonance imaging platform at LIH (by Dr Olivier Keunen). As many as 40 participants attended the training for function A in January and 19 that for function B in March 2017. The trainers were Dr Samantha Storn, designated veterinarian at LIH, Anaïs Oudin, research engineer, expert for animal welfare and head of the Animal Welfare Structure at LIH, Dr Djalil Coowar, research associate and animal facility manager at LCSB, Marthe Schmit, designated veterinarian at the UL, and a range of external invited speakers.

‘We got very positive feedback for the training’, tells Dr Storn. ‘People were especially happy to have a course close by. We aim to organise this training now once or twice a year.’ She explains further about the course organisation: ‘It was a big challenge and a lot of work to assemble all the course material, but the teaching experience was great. We could see the satisfaction of the participants and now have a growing interest for the training in the local scientific community; this is very rewarding.’

Applying the three Rs

LIH and the UL apply the principles of the three Rs for animal experimentation: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. This means that in vivo experiments are only used to confirm a scientific hypothesis which was previously been tested in vitro, for example in cell culture. A fourth R standing for the word “Respect” can be added, as the personnel trained in animal experimentation is made aware on the importance of respecting the animals as a living beings which can experience stress, pain and fear.

All operational aspects for the maintenance and experimentation on small laboratory animals follow national and European regulations (EU Directive 2010/63/EU). LIH also has an internal code of ethics on animal testing and an Animal Welfare Structure evaluating all experimental protocols in accordance with the code and the law.