Science

Lab Rats – The Nottingham Connection

Nestling within the University of Nottingham Medical School is a facility that has been persistent in the search for alternatives to animal testing for over 40 years. Nottingham University’s ‘FRAME’ -The Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments is an independent charity whose ultimate goal is “The elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedure.” FRAME is underpinned by ‘The Three Rs’: reduction (reducing the number of animals used in testing and also reducing pain during procedures), replacement (using alternative methods of testing) and refinement (the modification of experiments to allow reduction and replacement). The FRAME alternatives Laboratory (FAL), based at The University of Nottingham, is the only FRAME lab in the country. Impact Science went to visit the lab to find out about the ongoing research.

We spoke to Lab Director, Dr Andrew Bennett, who showed us around. He elaborated on the main work that goes on there:

‘We prepare human cells from human tissue, the idea being that if you want to do things relevant to humans, rather than give it to a rat, mouse, rabbit or monkey which don’t always respond the same way as humans, then why not test it on humans?”
The human tissue is received, with consent, after operations have been carried out. An array of cell types are used including liver and immune to obtain a widespread view of the effect that a drug will have on a human body. The lab also uses patient trials and volunteer studies to supplement testing.

Research carried out by the lab is primarily focussed on treatment of conditions such as diabetes and obesity, due to the high demand for solutions to these problems, and because of the large number of animals used in this type of research.

As a result of the wide-ranging genetic variations within the human population, even modest numbers of human tissue samples will show a diverse response to drugs testing. The work carried out at FRAME provides key information on these responses. Andrew was keen to emphasise just how important this understanding is to the development of more effective medicines.

An executive at GlaxoSmithKline once said that less than half the patients prescribed their drugs will benefit from them. If this considerable variation exists within the human species alone, imagine the difference in responses between humans and animals. Drug testing on human tissue is therefore of paramount importance to the pharmaceutical industry and the medical community- making Nottingham’s FAL lab an absolutely essential facility.

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