Animal model, Aix-Marseille Université signs a transparency charter

Animal experimentation in research remains an essential scientific practice, governed by ethical and regulatory measures that ensure the protection, respect and proper treatment of the animals used.

Following the example of 40 public and private players in French research, in January 2021 Aix-Marseille Université signed the transparency charter coordinated by the GIRCOR (Interprofessional Group for Reflection and Communication on Research). The signatories of this Charter undertake to limit practices to strictly necessary experiments and to take into account the fact that animals are sensitive beings, subject to pain and with physiological and behavioral needs specific to each species.
AMU has therefore made four commitments:

  1. To explain the reasons for, and conditions of, the use of animals for scientific purposes and the regulations.
  2. Disseminate information to the general public and the media through the various communication tools of the institutions, including institutional websites.
  3. To facilitate the exchange of information with the general public and the media.
  4. Produce an annual document on the progress made in informing the public.

Animal research still essential

Animal research raises dilemmas not only for scientists who use animals in medical research, but also for society as a whole. The current consensus is that the use of animals in research is justified only if there are clear benefits to human and animal health.
To this day, animal research remains the most appropriate approach to study the behavior of living organisms in their integrity and complexity. Alternative in vitro and in silico methods play an important role in many research projects, but they do not yet allow us to understand and reproduce all the complex interactions within a living organism.

An ethical approach: the 3Rs rule

In animal research, the "3Rs rule", developed in 1959, is the foundation of the ethical approach applied to animal experimentation in Europe and North America. The principle aims at the Reduction, Replacement and Refinement of experiments conducted with animals and thus contributes to the development of alternative methods.

  • Replacement means that whenever possible, so-called alternative methods should be used instead of methods using live animals. There are, for example, approaches that create mini-organisms formed using organoids or computer methods (in silico) that can help answer certain scientific questions.
  • Reducing means that the minimum number of animals must be used. This implies a thorough reflection on the experimental design, and a methodical choice of the number of animals to obtain a statistical power adapted to a relevant effect size, chosen according to the scientific objectives.
  • Refining means that everything must be done to minimize the stress on the animals and to preserve their well-being as much as possible.

Other R's are also important:

R for Rehabilitation. This is the possibility of returning laboratory animals to a shelter, a foster family or other after their use (an association, GRAAL, is in contact with research laboratories for this).

R for Responsibility. This is to emphasize the responsibility that rests on all actors of animal research. It is up to them to apply ethical principles in order to carry out quality research while preserving the animals as best as possible.

A practice governed by strict regulations

In France, animal experimentation is governed by regulations that require a high level of protection for the animals used since 2013.

Origin of the animals

Animals used for scientific purposes must come from approved farms or suppliers.

Approval of establishments

The establishments in which animal research is carried out must be approved by the prefecture. The operating conditions of establishments performing animal experimentation are regularly inspected by DDPP (Direction Départementale de la Protection des Populations) agents to ensure compliance. The inspectors carry out an in-depth documentary inspection (experimental procedures, staff training, various responsibilities, traceability registers, etc.) and a physical inspection of the animal houses (observation of the animals, quality of care and housing, safety instructions, etc.).

Ethical evaluation and authorization of projects

Projects using animals for scientific purposes must be authorized in advance by the Ministry of Research, after having been submitted to the opinion of an ethics committee registered with this ministry.

A structure dedicated to animal welfare

Each institution has an animal welfare structure in charge of advising researchers on the care of animals, the application of the 3Rs, operational processes and monitoring the progress of projects.

Useful links
Transparency Charter Animals for Science in France
Aix-Marseille Université
Animal welfare