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Glasgow ranked seventh in the UK for using animals in research

By Clara Ritthikarn

Bowel cancer research is amongst the studies that relied upon animals for results

A recently published league table by Understanding Animal Research (UAR) shows that the University of Glasgow carries out the 7th most animal procedures in the UK. According to Home Office figures published alongside the standing in 2020, the University of Glasgow carried out 102,526 procedures on animals in 2020. The University is part of the top 10 institutions on the list that account for nearly half of 2.8m procedures carried out last year. 

A groundbreaking study looking into bowel cancer was carried out at Glasgow, and aided by animal research. The international team from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute used mouse models to uncover what causes the development of the mutant cells. Crucial insight into the early stages of bowel cancer was provided by the study, and it helped identify a molecule that is a “key player” in this process, which could lead to new ways to stop tumour development.

Research procedures carried out on animals were also vitally important to the development of the coronavirus vaccine. The team of scientists at the University of Oxford revealed that they used Rhesus macaques for testing the AstraZeneca vaccines as these primates are very close relatives to humans, which “gives us a good understanding of how closely their immune systems resemble ours,” according to Wendy Jarrett, UAR’s Chief. 

Jan-Bas Prins, Director of the Crick’s Biological Research Facility, said: “The pandemic has shone a light on the continuing value of animal research, including the role it has played in supporting the development of safe and effective vaccines. And it has also opened up new ways of working, including greater emphasis on bioinformatics and improved data sharing globally.”

The use of animals in research has been a “subject of heated debate” in the UK for years, and the University has resultantly “committed to being open and transparent about the research we conduct involving animals”, having signed the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, which is endorsed by UAR. Whilst “much of our research at Glasgow involves studying lab-grown cells, human-derived tissues or computer models”, the University also states that “often useful knowledge can only be gained by understanding how a disease or drug functions in a living organism”. 

The University goes on to say: “Animals are only used in research at Glasgow when there is no other suitable alternative available, and we are committed to the principles of the three Rs – replacement, refinement and reduction.”


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