Our top ten news stories and blog posts of 2017

2017 was a busy year for the NC3Rs – as well as being our Year of Laboratory Rodent Welfare, we undertook a number of initiatives to advance the 3Rs, forging new partnerships, developing guidelines for best practice and continuing to fund the research and development of 3Rs science and technology.

This level of activity is reflected in the 65 news stories and blog posts published throughout the year. Our news and blogs section garnered over 70,000 views during 2017, an increase of 20% compared to 2016.

Here are our top ten news stories and blog posts of 2017. If you enjoy reading them, why not subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest news from the NC3Rs every month? You can also follow us on Twitter or join our LinkedIn group for regular updates.

1. Results of mouse studies affected by the way the animals are handled

Research funded by the NC3Rs demonstrated that the way mice are picked up can substantially change their behaviour in cognitive tests. The study discovered that mice handled via a tunnel instead of being picked up by the tail showed much more active exploration during testing, improving their performance in behavioural tests as well as indicating improved welfare.

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2. New NC3Rs PhD studentships announced

Fifteen new PhD studentships totalling £1.35 million were awarded by the NC3Rs in 2017 across leading UK institutions for exceptional 3Rs research and training projects. Of the 15 awards, three were co-funded with the British Heart Foundation to support 3Rs training and development in cardiovascular research.

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3. A strategy for improving animal welfare and quality of science

The welfare of animals used in research can impact on scientific outcomes, including the validity of animals as models of human disease and the reproducibility of studies. Our strategy for improving the welfare of research animals, which was published in a special issue of Lab Animal, highlights our approach to refinement, including funding research, data sharing and providing online resources.

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4. International survey on the use of zebrafish in research highlights opportunities for refinement

Scientists at the NC3Rs, AstraZeneca and University of Plymouth conducted the largest survey to date on the use and care of zebrafish in research. The survey aimed to better understand common practices and identify opportunities for refinement, with the results covering anaesthesia and euthanasia methods, housing and husbandry, breeding and production.

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5. IMPROVE-ing animal welfare in experimental stroke research

The IMPROVE Guidelines (Ischaemia Models: Procedural Refinements Of in Vivo Experiments) aim to increase the scientific value of rodent models of stroke and improve animal welfare through 43 recommendations for best practice. The guidelines, which were published in August, were developed by a collaboration led by the NC3Rs.

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6. Improving the quality of animal research with the EDA

In September two new papers describing the Experimental Design Assistant (EDA) were published. The EDA is a free-to-use online resource developed by the NC3Rs and a team of software designers, in vivo experts and statisticians. It supports researchers to design robust and reliable experiments, and improve the reproducibility of animal research.

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7. First ever survey of approaches to monkey chair restraint

The results of the first ever survey of the approaches used for training monkeys for chair restraint were published in August. The survey was conducted by scientists from the NC3Rs and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. It identified a number of recommendations for refining chair restraint procedures, including the need for researchers to work together.

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8. How serious are we about asepsis for rodent surgery?

In this guest blog post, Professor Paul Flecknell of Newcastle University discusses aseptic surgery and the need to maintain good asepsis for the benefit of rodent welfare as well as improving the scientific outcomes of research. He explores various techniques for maintaining asepsis and advocates for more widespread implementation of the current recommended standards.

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9. Guidance for university web pages on the 3Rs in animal research

Regional Programme Managers Kamar Ameen-Ali and Emma Stringer share their work supporting universities to produce web pages on the 3Rs in animal research in this blog post. They discuss why these pages are important and highlight NC3Rs guidance that provides a framework for establishments to create pages that are useful and informative.

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10. Study looking at natural behaviours of lab rats wins international 3Rs prize

The 2017 3Rs Prize, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, was awarded to Dr Joanna Makowska of the University of British Columbia for a paper co-authored with Dr Daniel Weary. The paper provides evidence that natural behaviours such as burrowing and standing upright are important for the welfare of laboratory rats, providing a scientific basis for a change in guidelines on housing.

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