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Release: Immediate

UI takes steps to ensure humane use of animals in research

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa over the past two years has continued efforts to improve the quality of its animal care program and to ensure the humane treatment of animals used in research, UI Vice President for Research David Skorton said Monday, March 3.

Speaking at an open forum on the use of animals in research, Skorton also said that UI researchers over the past two years have used fewer animals in nearly all categories except mice. Those trends mirror both national and international trends in the use of animals in research, he said.

According to Skorton, these are the initiatives that have been undertaken since 1994:

* A revision of the UI Animal Care and Use Review Form. The form requires more detailed information from faculty and scientists to document that they have fully investigated animal use alternatives in research or teaching.

* Full accreditation of the UI's animal use program by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC International). "We think this accreditation process provides Iowans and others with objective evidence of the high quality of our veterinary care program," Skorton said.

* Development of a home page on the World Wide Web for the UI Animal Care Unit, including educational information on the proper care and handling of animals, information on federal regulations and UI policy on the use of animals in research and teaching; alternative methods used in animal research or teaching, and organizations that provide funding for those alternatives.

The revised Animal Care and Use Review Form requires researchers to consider a number of alternatives, such as a reduction in the number of animals used; the use of a lower mammalian species; use of a non-mammalian or invertebrate species; or the use of a non-animal system, such as a cell or tissue culture, computer model or mathematical model.

"We are also placing greater emphasis on the possibility of sharing animals in order to reduce the total number of animals necessary for research programs," Skorton said.

The UI Animal Care Unit web site, in addition to information on animal care, federal regulations and UI policies, also features an "Animal Alternative Funding List" that provides a description of funding sources for projects designed to replace animals with non-animal models or to refine animal use. The UI Office of Sponsored Programs is continually searching for organizations that provide such funding, and when new opportunities are found, they are added to the list maintained at the web site.

"As we find new sources of alternate funding, we are making that information available to the members of our scientific community as well as the animal activists in our community," Skorton noted.

AAALAC International is a voluntary accreditation organization that seeks to enhance the quality of research, teaching and testing by promoting humane, responsible animal care and use. Participating organizations receive independent assessments of their animal care and use programs. Those that meet or exceed applicable standards are awarded AAALAC International accreditation.

Many private biomedical organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, strongly recommend that grantees be supported by animal programs with AAALAC International accreditation. About 90 percent of the top 100 recipients of research grants from the National Institutes of Health are accredited by AAALAC International.

Skorton also provided the latest statistics on the use of animals in research, noting that the use of dogs, cats, rabbits and rats has declined over the past two years. The use of mice has increased at the UI, just as it has nationally and in many other countries where university-based biomedical research is conducted.