The health and welfare of our animals is of paramount importance
The Mary Lyon Centre at MRC Harwell is proactively committed to implementing the 3Rs – the refinement, reduction, and replacement of the use of animals in research.
Our objective is to deliver knowledge that will hopefully benefit the lives of people in future, but we do so with an awareness that we have commitments to the animals in our care, and commitments to both minimising their pain and suffering and to improving their welfare.
The decision to support and proceed with mouse research at MRC Harwell is taken after extensive consultation and ethical review, which includes opinions from scientific, veterinary, and animal care staff, as well as lay people.
Every mouse is checked every day by a trained team of animal technicians. This includes weekends, bank holidays, and Christmas. The animal technicians make sure that any health problems are addressed, that mice have sufficient food, water, and dry bedding, and that the environmental conditions are correct. A veterinary surgeon is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to advise on any health concerns and potential medicinal requirements.
The mice are housed in individually ventilated cages, each with its own highly filtered air supply to provide the animals with a controlled environment. The base of each cage is filled with sterilised aspen wood bedding that has been through a special preparation process where it is dried, filtered and dust particles removed and then quality checked before being packed and sent to the Mary Lyon Centre.
Their food provides all the nutrition a mouse requires to grow and be healthy. As mice are sociable animals, there is a “companion” policy at Harwell, meaning that, wherever possible, mice are placed with a cage mate to ensure they are not living alone. They also have shredded paper and a cardboard tunnel in their cage, allowing them to build nests and play within their cage.
Much effort is directed to the refinement of procedures involving animals and the reduction of suffering. For example, in recent years we have:
- Invested in and developed home cage monitoring systems to allow in-depth data to be collected without disturbing the animals
- Adopted dynamic breeding and colony management schemes to enable the production of age-controlled cohorts of mice and reduce the overall number of mice bred
- Established in vitro systems that use cell-permeable recombinases during the creation of new mouse models to eliminate the breeding steps traditionally required to recombine and subsequently segregate genes
- Reduced the volumes of blood collected for biochemical analyses
- Developed ways of characterising and assessing the consequences of genetic mutations that have led to the ability to end studies earlier