Between 3Rs: Alternatives to Animals for Training Purposes
Research Models
Elizabeth Doughman

Between 3Rs: Alternatives to Animals for Training Purposes

From 3D anatomical models to medical and surgical simulators, a database full of alternatives for animals in training. 

The Guide requires “appropriate training to ensure that good surgical technique is practiced.” Proper technique takes practice—and sometimes numerous animal models.

In an effort to minimize the number of animals used to help researchers perfect surgical and research techniques, Norecopa, Norway’s platform for the advancement of the 3Rs, created a database full of alternatives for animals in training. ALN spoke with Adrian Smith of Norecopa to learn more.

Can I teach staff members how to perform research procedures without the use of live animals?

AS:  This depends upon the learning outcome of the teaching scenario. If the object is to give the student basic training in handling or procedure skills, such as fixation, injection and bleeding, it may well be possible to eliminate animal use entirely. This ensures that the student makes his/her mistakes on an inanimate object, eliminating pain and distress on a real animal. Once the student and trainer are confident that the procedure has been learned, the student can progress to a real animal—if necessary using sedation or anesthesia initially. Links to guidance on the use of animals in teaching and training are part of the PREPARE guidelines for planning animal research and testing.

What alternatives to live animals are available?

AS: A large range of products are now available, including 3D anatomical models, medical and surgical simulators, manniquins, interactive computer programs, video films, and CDs. A challenge for those new to the community can be finding suitable resources—which is why we constructed the NORINA database.

Are the resources affordable?

AS: A growing number of creative trainers are now making their own models for teaching specific techniques, especially those for which there are no good commercial products. For example, soft toys can be adapted for classes teaching blood sampling skills, by adding rubber tubes containing synthetic blood. Likewise, abdominal organs can be simulated, so students can practice an operation such as ovariohysterectomy without having to worry about anesthesia, pain relief, and life support of the patient. The trainer can easily make such exercises even more realistic by, for example, making a blood vessel “bleed,” which the student has to locate and ligate before continuing.

Norecopa arranged an international workshop in April this year which showcased homemade resources produced by European and American trainers:

Where can we find information on alternatives?

AS: The NORINA database provides a comprehensive, global overview of alternatives and supplements to animal use in education and training. Established in 1991, NORINA has been updated ever since and currently contains information on over 3,100 resources. The NORINA database is now part of the Norecopa website, so all the information can be found easily by using Norecopa’s search engine.

Between 3Rs is a Q&A series created by the Charles River Laboratories’ Eureka blog and ALN Magazine to highlight the importance of the 3Rs—replacement, reduction, and refinement—as guidelines for ethical animal use in biomedical research. If you are interested in being a part of the series, contact [email protected] o[email protected].