Why are animals needed for research at The Neuro – an overview
There is an overwhelming consensus that animals play a critical role in neurological disease research.
- Animal research is necessary to find neurological disease treatments
- Animal research is only undertaken where there is no alternative
- Research with animals is strictly regulated both at the national and university level
- We provide the best possible care to our animals
Animal research saves lives, cures diseases and gives hope
Research with animals helps make life better for all of us. Millions of people are alive today because of the benefits of medical research with animals, and millions more are living healthier lives. Many of the treatments we take for granted – like insulin, penicillin, hypertension medications and others - could not have been possible without animals during the research and development phase. For example, the polio vaccine, developed in part after testing on animals, has saved millions of lives after scientists developed it in the 1950s. Deep brain stimulation, which helps people with Parkinson’s disease manage their symptoms, was developed with research animals. Furthermore, research with animals has benefited animal health as well, providing veterinary treatments for diseases and disorders that afflict animals.
Why The Neuro conducts animal research
Due to the complexity of the human brain, treatments for many neurological diseases are lacking, and for some, there are no effective treatments at all. Animal research at The Neuro provides important insight into nervous system functioning, both under normal conditions and during neurological dysfunction, aiding the development of therapies to save lives and improve human health.
The Neuro regards the use of animals in research and teaching to be an integral component of continued progress in medicine, science, and education, resulting in enormous benefits for human health.
How animal research is regulated
Under the oversight of the Vice Principal Research and Innovation, McGill’s Office of Research Ethics and Compliance serves researchers working with human participants or animals across campus, including The Neuro. The Animal Compliance Office provides advice on compliance in research and teaching projects that involve animal subjects. The unit supports the Animal Care Program for McGill University and its affiliated hospitals research institutes, including The Neuro.
Laboratory mice and rats require proper sensory and motor stimulation to exhibit species-specific behaviors such as foraging, exploring, hiding, and building. The mouse hut, seen in the photo above, enables all of these behaviours including the ability for the animal to be the architect of their environment.
Zebrafish models are used to look for new ways to treat ALS
Albino Xenopus laevis tadpoles, less than two weeks after fertilization, are an ideal experimental model for studying early brain development due to the translucency of their bodies, making it possible to capture time-lapse microscopic images of growing brain cells in the intact living organism. (photo credit: David Freiheit)
The simple nervous system of sea slug Aplysia is used to study behavioural memory which is encoded by changes in the synaptic strength of identified neurons
Ethical guidelines for researchers
The Neuro is committed to conducting the highest-quality research and to providing animals with the best care in accordance with the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) a federal regulatory body that oversees all animal research in Canada. As part of McGill University, animal research at The Neuro has to be approved by Neuro Animal Care Committee and by the McGill Animal Care Office, after review of each proposal to ensure it is ethical, necessary, and minimizes animal discomfort in addition to following what are called the “Three Rs” as established by the CCAC: replacement, reduction and refinement. Researchers must undergo thorough training prior to conducting animal research.
Care of the animals
Researchers at The Neuro work with species ranging from Aplysia (sea slugs), to mice, rats, and primates. The CCAC ensures that animal-based science takes place only when necessary and that the animals in the studies receive optimal care according to high quality, research-informed standards.
Animals are housed and cared for at the Centre for Neurological Disease Models, whose staff are nationally recognized for their knowledge and compassionate care. The CNDM operates in full compliance with the CCAC. The complex nature of the brain requires careful study under controlled conditions, thus for scientific as well as ethical reasons the CNDM provides an environment that minimizes animal discomfort and stress. More information is available on McGill University’s animal research policies.
- Non-human primate research: FAQs
- Foundation for Biomedical Research
- Society for Neuroscience – Animals in Research
Contact communications.neuro [at] mcgill.ca (Neuro Communications)