Licensing and Ethical Review

Mouse research at the Mary Lyon Centre, only proceeds when no other options are available and the predicted benefits of the knowledge gained can justify the cost to the individual animals involved.

Formalising practice to promote welfare and high quality science

The use of animals in experiments and testing is governed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), which is regulated by the Home Office.

Under ASPA, animal research is only permitted at a licensed establishment, the experiment must be part of a licensed project and the investigator performing the work must have their own personal licence and must be competent in the procedures being used. Permission to work with animals is granted by the Home Office by licence only under very specific conditions.

The decision to support and proceed with mouse research at the Mary Lyon Centre is taken after extensive consultation and ethical review overseen by the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB), which includes opinions from scientific, veterinary, and animal care staff as well as lay people. The primary aim of the AWERB is to develop and formalise good practice at MRC Harwell in the promotion of animal welfare and high quality science deriving from their use.

The AWERB also aims to add value to the scientific and ethical dialogues surrounding the use of animals and the assessment and reduction of risk at this establishment, offering a local framework for delivering high standards of accommodation and care. It does so according to the principles of better regulation outlined in ‘RSPCA & LASA 2015 Guiding Principles on Good Practice for Ethical Review Processes’, a report produced by the RSPCA Research Animals Department and LASA Education, Training and Ethics section.

MRC Harwell is proactively committed to the principles of the 3Rs – the refinement, reduction, and replacement of the use of animals in research. All licence holders must adhere to these principles and the AWERB discusses them when considering any project licence application. In addition, we have frequent Named Persons meetings between our Named Animal Care & Welfare Officers, Named Veterinary Surgeon, Named Training & Competency Officers, Home Office Liaison Contact, Establishment Licence Holder, and Named Information Officer. These involve discussions of all aspects of welfare, led by the Named Animal Care & Welfare Officers, and provides an opportunity to share initiatives or highlight areas that require more exploration. This also enables the group to identify training requirements of our staff and develop technical expertise with animal welfare being the leading factor.

In this way, our staff have led the way on a number of important 3Rs initiatives:

  • In vitro systems that use cell-permeable recombinases to eliminate the breeding steps traditionally required to recombine and subsequently segregate genes during creation of new mouse models
  • The use of home cage monitoring for automated assessments of behaviour and welfare for mice in their home cage without needing researcher handling
  • Colony management and the use of dynamic breeding schemes have enabled the production of age-controlled cohorts of mice and reduced the overall number of mice bred

Research at MRC Harwell involves breeding and maintaining many different strains of mice, carrying diverse genetic changes. The following table shows the numbers of mice that were bred and that underwent scientific procedures since 2018:

Number animals bred in the MLC233,696244,320201,635180,292
Overall total number of animals returned116,162109,558102,66490,229
Severity – sub-threshold84,55376,34375,08566,731
Severity – mild21,06823,35219,45715,939
Severity – moderate8,6407,9776,5756,177
Severity – Severe446694441255
Severity – non-recovery1,4551,1921,1061,127
Total number of animals returned  – breeding58,63259,63556,29445,940
Severity – sub-threshold55,44754,32753,98845,233
Severity – mild2,8354,6411,912606
Severity – moderate24836723654
Severity – Severe10230015747
Severity – non-recovery0010
Total number of animals returned – experimental57,53049,92346,37044,289
Severity – sub-threshold29,10622,01621,09721,498
Severity – mild18,23318,71117,54515,333
Severity – moderate8,3927,6106,3396,123
Severity – Severe344394284208
Severity – non-recovery1,4551,1921,1051,127

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