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Facts and figures on animal experiments at Charité

How many animals and animal species are used by scientists in research projects at the Charité each year and what levels of stress are these animals exposed to?

The following pages provide an overview of the most important figures and the different areas in which research is conducted on animals. 

 

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Number of experimental animals from 2018 to 2021

In the annual laboratory animal report to the LAGeSo, the authority responsible for Charité, each scientist working on animal experiments at Charité provides information on the number of laboratory animals used per experiment and on which animal species was used.

In addition, the annual laboratory animal report includes further information such as the stress levels of the experiments and the genetic status of the animals. All data shown were recorded internally at Charité in accordance with the official requirements.

Laboratory animal numbers for 2021

How many laboratory animals and which animal species were used at Charité in 2021?

At Charité, scientists used a total of 51,942 test animals in 2021. This is 5461 more animals than in the previous year. The increase in the number of test animals by around 12 percent compared to the previous year is due to several factors. On the one hand, the comparatively low number from 2020 is related to the corona pandemic and the associated more difficult research conditions in biomedicine. Only a few research groups were able to continue working as usual during the first lockdown in 2020. At the same time, there are always fluctuations even under normal working conditions when projects start or end, for example when new work groups are added or end.

By far the largest proportion of the animals used at the Charité were mice (46,568 in total). In addition, the Charité scientists used rats, fish, guinea pigs, rabbits, sheep and pigs to research how human diseases develop.

How high was the proportion of transgenic animals at Charité in 2021?

About 30,143 of the animals used in animal experiments in 2021 in accordance with Section 7 Paragraph 2 of the Animal Welfare Act were genetically modified. The proportion of so-called transgenic animals was 46 percent.

The number of experiments with genetically modified mice reflects the great importance of these animals for basic biomedical research and preclinical research. They are a hitherto indispensable way to understand how environment and genes together with different organ systems lead to and contribute to a disease. For example, researchers have succeeded in identifying genes that are involved in the development of diabetes mellitus (diabetes) in both mice and humans. New therapeutic approaches can be developed on these mouse strains. Corresponding strains also exist for research into diseases such as cancer, obesity and deafness. For example, the same gene is responsible for the development of colon cancer in mice as in humans, and ways of influencing these degenerate cells are being sought

What levels of stress were the laboratory animals at Charité exposed to in 2021?

How much stress did the experiments put on the animals and how many animals were used?

In addition to the number of experimental animals and information on the species used, the annual report to the authority responsible for Charité, the Berlin State Office for Health and Social Affairs (LAGeSo), also includes information on the stress or severity levels of the animal experiments.

Slightly more than half of the experimental animals used at Charité to answer scientific questions were killed to remove tissue or organs and had not previously been used in animal experiments. These animals are used by the authorities in accordance with Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act. The proportion of these animals was around 52.5 percent in 2021.
 
The remaining 47.5 percent, who were used at Charité in an animal experiment according to the definition in the Animal Welfare Act according to Section 7, were either slightly (13 percent) or moderately (26 percent) stressed, while the proportion of animal experiments with severe stress was 3 percent. The proportion of animal experiments, their interventions and/or treatments were carried out completely and exclusively under general anesthesia, from which the animals never woke up, was around 5 percent. They are recorded in the statistics under "No recovery of vital function".
 
In all experiments involving stress, the scientists are obliged to minimise it by using painkillers and reducing stress. Prospectively, they have to weigh the burden against the expected medical and scientific benefit in the context of the application. In principle, the 3R rule (reduce, refine, replace) applies: this means that researchers must keep the number of experimental animals as low as possible, minimise pain and suffering and use substitute and supplementary methods whenever possible.
 
Note: The reporting requirements for 2021 have changed slightly. Animals that are reported via §4 are now recorded separately. In previous years, the §4 killings fell into a common category together with the animals that are now recorded under "No recovery of vital function", which makes comparability with previous years difficult. In order to improve transparency, these two categories are now shown separately (dark blue and light blue area).

In which areas were laboratory animals used at Charité in 2021?

At Charité in 2021, around 85 percent of the animals were used in basic biomedical research and around 12 percent in clinical research. Clinical or translational research combines basic research with the practical application of research results, i.e. the translation of preclinical research into clinical development towards therapies for patients.

About 1 percent of the animals were used for toxicological or regulatory purposes. This area of legally prescribed experiments includes, for example, preclinical testing of medical products or medicines. About 1 per cent of the animals were used for the education or training of scientists and animal caregivers working with animal experiments.