New epilepsy research helps to reduce animal experiments
A new epilepsy research project led by Dr Roland Jones from the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology at the University of Bath (England) is developing a new technique to reduce the number of animals used for each experiment by 90% and to give more accurate results.
Epilepsy affects around 50 million people worldwide; nearly 1,000 people a year in the UK die directly or indirectly from the condition, which causes recurrent seizures.
Whilst drugs are available to control seizures, between 20-30% of patients do not respond to medication and so the researchers are working to understand the condition better with a view to developing new drugs.
Research into epilepsy and antiepileptic drugs often relies heavily on experiments using models of the disease in animals such as rats. Tracking the development of the chronic condition usually requires brain tissue from groups of several animals to be examined at multiple time points following an induced seizure.
The new project plans to model the chronic epileptic condition in cultured brain tissue from a single rat to understand the changes in the brain that lead to regular seizures.
Dr Jones said:
“ Unfortunately at the moment, animal experimentation is the only way to study the chemical changes that go on in the brain that lead to an epileptic seizure.
However, our new model will mean that tracking the changes leading to epilepsy can be done in one rat in each experiment. This will reduce the number of animals used for these studies by approximately 90%.
This approach will also provide more accurate data because it tracks changes in a single animal’s brain over time, making the data more comparable and quicker to obtain than using groups of several animals.”
The research is funded by a grant of £363,000 from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) as one of 13 research grant awards. This year, the Centre is investing over £4m in research, including the cause of multiple sclerosis, influenza research, understanding drug addiction and cancer cell biology.
Minister for State for Universities & Science, David Willetts, said:
“ The coalition government supports the efforts of the NC3Rs to minimise animal use in scientific research. These awards help to keep the UK at the forefront of advances in the 3Rs as we seek breakthroughs in treating serious illnesses.”