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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Computer-based Alternatives to Using Animals in Teaching Physiology and Pharmacology to Undergraduate Students


David Dewhurst

In the UK, the majority of animals used for undergraduate education are for laboratory practical classes (wet labs) in pharmacology and physiology. Computer simulations, which are now widely available at relatively low cost, can provide a dry lab experience that may fulfil some, but not all, of the objectives of the animal labs and may be particularly appropriate where the animal lab is costly to run or requires a high level of technical expertise. Broadly, the computer simulations fall into two categories, each having design features in line with achieving slightly different learning objectives. Most of the available evidence suggests that where computer simulations are used as alternatives, they can fulfil many of the learning objectives of wet labs, though clearly they are not effective in teaching animal handling, surgical/dissection and laboratory skills.