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Welfare of laboratory animals increased

Research quality improves if animals are held under better experimental conditions

If experimental conditions under which laboratory animals are held better satisfy their needs, the quality of research improves. This is argued by Mrs Cynthia Verwer M.Sc., who defends her doctoral dissertation on Tuesday October 11 at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University. The general practice in animal testing is to house the animals under standardized, low stimulus conditions, with the aim to ensure validity and reproducibility of test results. However, Mrs Verwer shows that species-appropriate housing conditions both improve animal welfare and quality of research results.

Laboratory animals

In biomedical research animal testing is used, for example, for assessing the safety and efficacy of vaccines. "People want safe medicines," says Mrs Verwer. "It is a central policy objective to find alternatives for animal testing (for instance, computer simulations), to decrease the number of test animals and to improve their living conditions. My research focuses on improving the experimental conditions under which these animals are held. My results show that standardized, low stimulus housing conditions are not a prerequisite for reliable research."

Taking the needs of laboratory animals into account

For example, Mrs Verwer found in studies with rats, which are social animals, that group housing works better than solitary housing. The quality of the research improves because the animals are less stressed. "I propose that researchers take responsibility for the welfare of their animals, and therefore take into account the animals' needs. Fortunately, various laboratories have already put my recommendations into practice," says Mrs Verwer.

About the doctoral candidate

Mrs Cynthia Verwer has been working as a researcher in Animal Health and Welfare at the Louis Bolk Institute since three years. Her dissertation can be downloaded from the website of Utrecht University; a printed copy can be obtained from Cynthia Verwer.

Editors please note: for more information please contact Lidwien Daniels, Communications advisor at Louis Bolk Institute at +316- 

Datum: 10-10-2011