Animal research

Staff praised for animal welfare innovations

Innovations designed to improve the wellbeing of animals involved in research at the University have won awards at the eighth annual 3Rs symposium.

The event was set up to help scientists and technicians share best practice in efforts to refine, reduce and replace the use of animals in research.  

It included talks from experts working in the field and prizes were awarded to scientific and technical staff. Award entries displayed a variety of new approaches that could have a positive impact on the welfare of animals used in research.

Research category

First prize was awarded to Edinburgh researchers who developed a new method of studying the progression of a human breast cancer model in mice. It reduces the number of animals required, compared with current methods, by allowing for disease development to be tracked in one animal. This enables comparisons to be made between individual animals rather than groups of mice.

Second prize went to a novel method of studying damage to myelin, the insulating layer around nerves, which is seen in cases of multiple sclerosis. The approach involves the use of tissue cultures which greatly reduce the number of animals required in studies. Researchers also developed a gel that was used in the mouse model. It replaces the need for needles and minimises tissue damage in creating the model of disease. Both developments are significant refinements of existing methods.

Third prize was awarded for an alternative drug delivery method, in which pain relief medication was administered to mice via strawberry jelly instead of an injection. This is an effective refinement that improves the welfare of our animals.

Technical category

Winner of the technical prize was an Edinburgh study which confirms that tunnel handling, where mice are picked up and handled in a clear tunnel, is a refinement over conventional handling where mice are lifted up by the base of the tail. It demonstrated that mice quickly adapted to this new approach which was a quick and effective way of handling.  

Second prize went to a study which reinforced the need for single use needles in all studies that involve injections. The study demonstrated by electron microscopy that needles become blunt and damaged after a few uses and reinforced the University’s policy on single needle use and the positive impact on animal welfare.

Third prize was awarded for a study that improved the identification of female mice in oestrous for studies involving breeding. This approach reduces the numbers of animals required for this area of research.


“The 3Rs Symposium has become a highlight in our calendar. This year we had an exceptional group of speakers who expanded our thinking in both technological and practical approaches to the 3Rs. In addition the posters once again demonstrated the amount of activity in developing 3Rs across the whole campus. I think we all felt that this was a significant event and very encouraging for all involved.”

Dr Lesley PennyDirector of Bioresearch and Veterinary Services


Key principles

The University is committed to the principles of the 3Rs – replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals in research to minimise the effects on the animals concerned.

Related links

3Rs at the University of Edinburgh