FRAME’s ultimate aim is the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedures. We use desk-based and laboratory research to investigate potential new, valid, scientific methods.
FRAME was the first organisation to fund its own laboratory where new and innovative research methods are developed. (See more information here.) The lab is currently staffed by a director and 16 post-doctoral fellows, PhD students and Technicians. It has an excellent reputation for its work in toxicology testing, and was responsible for producing a number of non-animal tests that are now industry standard. However, in recent years lab staff have worked with surgeons from the nearby hospital to investigate human diseases. They can use ethically-gathered, human tissues, so their findings are more directly relevant to the conditions being studied.
FRAME has conducted many studies examining the use of animals in laboratory research and investigating how the Three Rs can be implemented. Our findings are promoted in many ways, including through representation on national and international expert committees, many of which were formed by FRAME to address specific scientific questions.
The use of laboratory animals has undoubtedly led to advancement in terms of understanding basic science, however, when data obtained from animal research is used to predict human responses to drugs and chemicals, difficulties arise. There are major issues for companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics sector: * Toxicity data from animal studies can be seriously misleading, resulting in human exposure to substances ranging from mild irritants to potentially life-threatening toxins. * Large numbers of compounds that appear to have functional biological activity in animals, have little or no potency in humans. * Research and development effort can be wasted because experiments using functional human tissues have not been carried out at an early enough stage in the development process. * Compounds with no detectable biological activity in animals might produce a beneficial response in humans, so potentially valuable, commercially viable compounds will be discarded.
Genetic Modification FRAME is concerned about the use of genetically modified animals because many suffer deformities and diseases as a result of the production techniques as well as having the pain and distress of the disease they have been designed to exhibit. FRAME has been actively involved in addressing transgenic animal welfare and the validity of their use as models of human diseases. It is currently studying the driving forces behind a rapid increase in the use of genetically modified mice in recent years. Non-human Primates FRAME is concerned about the use of primates in research and testing because of their intelligence and potential for suffering. FRAME has investigated the reliability of primate models and justifications for their use, and examined the feasibility of replacing them with alternative methods now and in the future. An ongoing PhD project is examining primate use in various fields of research.
Nanoparticles FRAME investigated whether animal models currently used can simulate human nanotoxicity. If not, there is concern that regulators will call for a greater number of animal studies. Alternative In Vivo Models Successful research has used fungi, plants, invertebrates, and the embryonic/larval stages of some vertebrates to replace adult animal models. FRAME looked at the benefits and drawbacks of specific alternative in vivo models in order to maximise their potential. Biopharmaceuticals FRAME has examined merits of rational design and alternative strategies for immunotoxicity testing with reference to outcomes of preclinical and clinical studies of biopharmaceuticals. More than 150 protein biopharmaceuticals are currently approved for clinical use. Few animal studies are able to predict potential outcomes in a way that is useful for estimating risk for entire patient populations. Models of Psychiatric Diseases Depression and schizophrenia can be severe and are relatively common conditions. Research is carried out to gain a better understanding of the diseases and develop new drugs, usually on inbred and genetically modified rodents. FRAME raised concerns over the relevance of these animal models for the study of such complex human psychiatric disorders.