It was noted that primate studies can complement in vitro studies, in silico modeling, human brain imaging, and parallel investigations in rodents.
A few participants described how public pressure and politics have phased out certain fields of research in some countries by making it difficult, if not impossible, to study non-human primates. The high cost of using nonhuman primates was also indicated as creating difficulties in developing this field. Many participants acknowledged, however, that new regulations and laws have produced a significant improvement in animal care, which has led to improved science.
Refinements to animal models used in neuroscience have resulted in reductions in the number of animals required for a study, making the use of non-human primates more feasible. Although long-term data collection from an individual animal allows for the use of fewer animals, it includes numerous independent assessments, which have raised the issue of reuse and severity classification.
New regulations present a host of challenges for institutions, investigators, and IACUCs. Several participants raised concerns about regulations that result in increased costs of conducting biomedical research, without evidence that additional regulations result in improved animal welfare.
SESSION IV: REPLACEMENT, REFINEMENT, AND REDUCTION IN NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH
Session chair Colin Blakemore briefly reviewed the session’s focus on the 3Rs (replacement, refinement, and reduction), the ethical framework for the human use of animals in research. Panelists described an in vitro model of spinal cord injury that replaces the use of animal models and a new model of epileptogenesis that relies on refining previously described techniques. Some participants noted that both of these models have led to the reduction of animal use in experiments. Implementation of the 3Rs principle has a positive impact on improving neuroscience research, noted several participants, as demonstrated by the studies presented.
Publication in the peer-reviewed literature is the primary way information is disseminated in the scientific community. Blakemore observed that a few panelists, however, faced challenges in getting refinements to animal models or replacement methods published, especially when the submitted manuscript proposed to refine or replace an animal model that has been used broadly for decades.
Some participants discussed how systematic reviews of preclinical data could potentially support the 3Rs, thereby improving the quality of animal