Alternatives to animal research

This page provides guidance and training resources to members of the research community interested in developing alternatives to animals in fundamental research and testing. These can be innovative methods to entirely replace the need for an animal model, or the replacement of an animal product in an assay or procedure (e.g. animal derived antibodies for immunoassay).

    The 3Rs: Their definition, application and importance to your work

    Alternatives

    In pursuing animal replacement alternatives, the following methods have been proposed:

    • Systematic reviews
    • Mathematical & computer models, informatics
    • Cell culture - human ex vivo methods
    • "Lower" organisms (e.g. yeast)

    Systematic reviews

    The National Health and Medical Research Council states in Best Practice Methodology in the Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes that “systematic review of animal-based studies should be considered where appropriate" to replace the use of animals.

    Systematic reviews may also complement current animal based projects and help minimise unnecessary duplication of studies.

    • A useful starting point is this online short course run by SYRCLE that introduces the concepts and methodology behind systematic reviews specific to animal based work.
    • The CAMARADES Systematic Review Facility is a free-to-use online platform for researchers to perform systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies. They also provide information about systematic reviews on their website.
    • You can register systematic reviews of animal research related to human health on PROSPERO. Registration of systematic reviews facilitates open science and prevents duplication of work. (Guidance document)
    • If you are aiming to collate data from a systematic review using meta-analysis, then the ANU Statistical Consulting Unit (SCU) can assist with planning and designing your review. The SCU can also provide advice on narrative reviews, which may help you find more information on a particular topic.
    • If a systematic review of a specific research question may be a suitable alternative for your project, there are a number of ANU contacts who are available to assist further with your project plans – see the Questions? section.

    Non-animal modelling

    It may be worthwhile investigating the suitability of these non-animal based alternatives for future work.

    In silico

    Computer models can simulate human biology, progression of diseases, and predict how likely a substance is to be hazardous. Although modelling may not be able to replace research into complex reactions and processes in whole-body systems, it is worth exploring for use in preliminary work as proof of concept or development of new techniques.

    • Quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs) are computer-based techniques which estimate the likelihood a substance is hazardous, based on its similarity to existing substances and our knowledge of human biology. 
      • QSAR toolbox is a free software application that can be used for this.
      • QSAR4U lists additional tools and approaches in this area.
    • Cyprotex offers a range of prediction tools for researchers.

    In vitro

    • Human cells ex vivo
    • Microorganisms and non-vertebrates (e.g. yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans)

     

    Questions?

    Contacts

    • For advice on the 3Rs and alternative strategies to reduce or replace animals in research and testing, please contact Dr Brett Lidbury (Associate Professor and Alternatives Advisor to ANU Animal Ethics Committee) at brett.lidbury@anu.edu.au or phone on 6125 7875.
    • Advice and assistance includes guidance on grant applications, data acquisition and human ethics. 
    • Any questions about animal research - ANU vet services team (vetservices.rsd@anu.edu.au)
    • Alternatives to animal-based research - Associate Professor Brett Lidbury (brett.lidbury@anu.edu.au)
    • Systematic reviews - Professor David Nisbet (david.nisbet@anu.edu.au)

    International links and collaborators

    Resources to support alternatives research

    There are a number of great online resources available. The ANU Veterinary Services team can assist you further if you have a specific interest.

    • NC3Rs (UK) - Plenty of excellent resources and information available via this site. Go to the "Our Resources" link at the top of the NC3Rs home page for guidance on experimental design, sampling, ARRIVE and more.
      • Reduction in experimental design - a short, interactive, online course for research scientists working with laboratory animals. The aim is to reduce the number of animals which are used, improve the quality of the science, and save time, money and other scientific resources.
    • Canadian Council on Animal Care online training modules
    • ANZCCART – Aus/New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching
    • PREPARE - Guidelines and checklist for planning animal research and testing (UK, endorsed by ANZCCART)
    • ARRIVE - Guidelines and checklist for the reporting of research using animals in publications (UK, endorsed by ANZCCART)

    Useful publications

    These publications contribute to the debate on whether the use of animals as research models in the biomedical field are valuable and justified.

    Page owner: Research Services