Leading UK scientist wins NC3Rs prize for improving lab animal welfare

A study to reduce stress and anxiety in laboratory mice was today awarded the 2010 NC3Rs prize for advances in animal welfare (Tuesday 25 January 2011)

Prize winner Professor Jane Hurst's research, published in Nature Methods, has shown that a new way of handling laboratory mice can improve their welfare and the quality of the science they are used for.

Laboratory mice are usually picked up by their tails. Professor Hurst's study proves this method of handling causes high levels of anxiety and stress which can influence the outcome of experiments. By simply catching the mice using a plastic tunnel or cupped hands anxiety can be greatly reduced.

The prize winner receives a £10,000 grant, which is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Professor Hurst, from the University of Liverpool, plans to use the prize to provide training for scientists and animal care staff on handling methods and also to assess the effects of different handling methods on stress physiology.

Professor Hurst said: "I hope our research will be universally implemented across laboratories to improve animal welfare for all mice and to minimise the effects of handling on experiments. This is a small change that is easily applied and will make a big difference to animal welfare. I thank the NC3Rs and GSK for the award, which will fund further work to improve handling methods."

Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive of the NC3Rs said: "The NC3Rs prize recognises and rewards excellence in research which helps to reduce the number and suffering of animals used for scientific purposes. I want to congratulate Professor Hurst and her team for their excellent work which will potentially improve the lives of millions of laboratory mice. I hope that all scientists will adopt this simple method of picking up mice so that it becomes standard procedure, not just best practice."

The judging panel selected this paper based on the high quality of the research; its potential application to benefit every mouse used for research; and the link demonstrated between good science and animal welfare.

The research was funded by the BBSRC, Wellcome Trust and NC3Rs.

The award was presented by Margaret Landi, Global Head of Laboratory Animal Science, GSK.


Notes for Editors:
Quick facts:

About the NC3Rs prize:

The NC3Rs awards an annual prize for an original contribution to scientific and technological advances in the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) in medical, biological or veterinary sciences published within the last two years. Sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, the prize consists of a prize grant of £10k, plus a personal award of £1k, and is part of the Centre's commitment to recognise and reward high quality research which has an impact on the use of animals in the life sciences.

The 2009 prize went to Dr Jenny Nichols, University of Cambridge, for her publication in Nature Medicine which describes a new method of priming early embryos to form embryonic stem (ES) cells that could dramatically reduce the number of animals used to study the genetic basis of type 1 diabetes.

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