The Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research (DHT) is the UK’s leading medical research charity that funds and promotes the development of techniques and procedures to replace the use of animals in biomedical research and testing.
To further this aim, the DHT supports and assists scientists to implement existing techniques and develop new ones which are more human-relevant and replace animal experiments. We award grants to scientists in universities, hospitals and research organisations following a rigorous peer-reviewed selection procedure. Only those projects with the highest scientific calibre and the best potential for the replacement of animals will be awarded funding.
Funded solely by charitable donations, the DHT has awarded grants to over 140 research projects over 40 years for some of the most advanced and successful human-related techniques in the most diverse areas of medical research including cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma, kidney, heart and liver disease and diabetes, to name only a few. To date, we continue to be the UK’s leading charity provider of grants solely dedicated to animal replacement research in medical research.
We endeavour through promotion and education in the scientific, political and public communities the wider adoption of such techniques and strive to increase medical progress through this interaction. As a result, the DHT has grown into one of the world leading exponents of non-animal research and is consulted internationally for its expertise in replacement research methods by scientists, governments, education, animal welfare organisations and industry.
The Trustees of the charity, founded in 1970, had two enduring goals: to play a leading role in funding non-animal replacement research and to advance and develop widespread support for this endeavour with always the vision of making a major and practical contribution to advance medical science without harm to animals.
Today, the DHT is still centred on these founding principles and we continue to demonstrate that cutting-edge research methodologies have led to significant advances and innovations in pursuit of more human relevant approaches without the use of animals.
What are animal experiments?
Animal experiments (also known as vivisection) are defined in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 as any scientific procedures performed on a living animal likely to cause them “pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.” At present, the Act defines an animal as any animal with a backbone; plus the octopus.
What types of animals are used?
Many different animal species are used for animal experiments around the world including rats, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, cats, dogs, mini-pigs, primates, goats, sheep, birds, fish etc.
How many animals are used in experiments?
In Great Britain in 2009, 3,619,540 procedures were conducted on 3,541,252 animals. This is an decrease of 1% on the number of procedures conducted in 2008.
All countries in the European Union are required to return information on the number of animals used in experiments for central collation. In 2005 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 12.1 million animals were used in laboratories in the EU. Many countries outside the EU do not collect statistics of animals used in experiments, or they collect only partial figures, so it is difficult to estimate the total number of animals used worldwide.
What do animal experiments involve?
The experiments animals are used in are wide-ranging but can involve safety (toxicity) testing; disease infection; wound infliction; application of skin/eye irritants; food/water/sleep deprivation; subjection to psychological stress; brain damage; paralysis; surgical damage; induced organ failure; genetic modification and associated physical deformity; burning; and electric shocks. Animals may die as part of the experiment or are killed afterwards for post mortem examination.
What are animal experiments for?
Broadly speaking and world-wide, animals are used for research into human and animal diseases, and in basic research to expand human knowledge. Animals will also be used to test (and develop) consumer and industry products. These can include cosmetics, household cleaners, food additives and colourings, food products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, industrial and agro-chemicals.
Do animals suffer in experiments?
Yes. An experiment on a living animal only needs to be licensed by the UK government if it has the potential to cause “pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.” (see the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986).
Animals are capable of experiencing both physical pain and suffering as well as psychological harm such as fear (including, for some species, anticipation of harm), boredom and/or depression. Suffering can be caused not only by the experimental procedure itself, but also due to the unnatural and often stark laboratory environment, handling or excessive noise or light.
What are the alternatives to animal experiments?
There is a range of different methods that can be used to replace animal experiments. These include cell and tissue cultures, analytical technology, molecular research, post mortem studies, computer modelling, epidemiology (population studies), ethical clinical research with volunteer patients and healthy subjects, and the use of microbes such as bacteria.
Can alternatives actually replace animal experiments or are they used alongside?
Alternative methods are regularly replacing animal experiments and have already saved the lives of millions of animals worldwide. For example, cell cultures have replaced the use of monkeys in polio vaccine production; pregnancy tests are now conducted in test-tubes instead of in rabbits; batches of insulin are analysed chemically and not by tests in mice; and cell culture methods have replaced the use of thousands of live mice, sheep, rabbits, goats and pigs in the production of monoclonal antibodies. Alternative techniques have the potential to replace more animal experiments and offer more humane and better quality research.
How can whole-organism level research be done without using animals?
Non-animal research rarely simply replaces like for like. Instead a different approach is used in order to replicate the whole body scenario, replacing each type of animal experiment with a whole range of non-animal techniques that are used in combination.
In medical research and testing the ‘whole organism’ of interest is the human body. Increasingly, safe and ethical studies of healthy and patient volunteers can be conducted using techniques such as neuroimaging, iontophoresis, ultrasound, stable isotope methods, microdosing, microdialysis, and genetic and other analyses of tissue samples.
The system (as the body is referred to) may be ‘de-constructed’ into its component parts, studied at the molecular, cellular or tissue levels, and then ‘re-constructed’. An example is the prediction of absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) characteristics of a novel drug. Using drug-specific physicochemical and in vitro data, combined with human species-specific standard physiological information, physiologically-based pharmacokinetic computer simulations can replace some animal studies.
A paradigm shift or novel technology may allow a new perspective in answering a question. For example, parenteral medicines used to be tested for bacterial contamination by measuring a systemic fever response in rabbits. Today, in vitro assays based on the key step – the activation of monocytes – are replacing rabbit tests.
Does the Dr Hadwen Trust fund research into all Three Rs?
No. The 3 R’s refer to the replacement, reduction and refinements of animal experiments. All research projects funded by the DHT are aimed solely at replacing animal experiments, in part or in full, by developing advanced non-animal techniques. The DHT does not fund research aimed at refinement or reduction of animal experiments. Replacement is the only one of the 3 R’s that provides an alternative to laboratory animals.
What does the Dr Hadwen Trust aim to achieve with its research programmes?
The Dr Hadwen Trust funds the development and promotes the use of techniques and procedures to replace the use of animals in medical research. Most researchers, research funders and regulators now accept the importance of replacing animal procedures and agree that the ultimate goal is to conduct medical research and safety testing without using living animals. We believe that excellence in medical research can and should be pursued without animal experiments.
What research approaches does the Dr Hadwen Trust support?
The aim of the Dr Hadwen Trust is not simply to fund non-animal medical research but to promote the replacement of animal procedures with non-animal methods. If an approach has no potential to replace animal procedures, for example because animal experiments are not conducted in that field of work, it is not eligible for funding by the Dr Hadwen Trust.
We will, however, consider funding research involving human cell lines, ex vivo or primary human tissues and cells, human sub-cellular components in vitro, ethical human volunteer studies, epidemiology, micro-organisms, plant tissues, physico-chemical techniques and computer technology. The Dr Hadwen Trust will not fund research using living animals, animal tissues or animal cell lines.
What peer review process does the Dr Hadwen Trust use for grant applications?
Grant applications undergo stringent independent peer review by external, often international experts, in the relevant areas that cover the application. Applications are treated as confidential and we seek the opinions of three expert referees of our own choosing for each application. Feedback from referees may be made available to unsuccessful applicants on an entirely non-attributable basis.
How do scientists learn about the replacements your charity funds?
We encourage all our funded researchers to present their work at conferences and to publish their findings in scientific journals. To date, some 200 reports of DHT funded research have been published in scientific journals around the world.
We also organise scientific meetings and speak at international conferences ourselves, and we submit evidence to official enquiries on animal experiments and alternatives.
What is ECVAM’s role?
Following the implementation of Directive 86/609/EEC in the European Union, the Commission (and Member States) acted on their legislative duty to encourage the development of research and testing methods that use fewer animals or none at all. As a result, the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) was created in 1991 as a unit of the Commission. ECVAM has successfully validated more than 27 full or partial replacement methods, of which 20 have already gained regulatory acceptance.
Are animal experiments required by law?
The law does not require that animal experiments are used for fundamental medical research, for example to discover the causes, diagnosis or progression of human illnesses. However, the law does currently require that animal tests are used in the safety testing of products such as medicines and chemicals in Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere.
As new, non-animal methods are developed, testing requirements are being updated and animal tests replaced.
What legislation covers animal experiments in the UK and Europe?
The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 covers animal experimentation in Britain and Directive 86/609/EEC is the equivalent in the European Union. The latter has been revised and is awaiting approval from the EC.
Does legislation require the replacement of animal experiments?
European Directive 86/609/EEC makes it clear that the Commission and the Member States have a duty to encourage the development of alternative techniques, using fewer or no animals. In Britain and other European Union member states, legislation states that scientifically satisfactory methods using fewer animals or none must be used in place of animal experiments.
Does the government fund research into the Three Rs?
In 2004, the British government established the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). This is funded by the government through Research Councils as well as by industry.
Can I donate my body to research?
Donating tissues to research can help medical progress and may help to replace animal research. It is impossible to guarantee that your tissues will be used in place of animal experiments, but the greater availability of human tissues will make the use of animals less likely and increase the relevance of medical research.
Thank you to the Dr Hadwen Trust for the above information