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How many laboratory animals and which animal species were used at the Charité in 2018?

Number of reported laboratory animals broken down by species

In 2018, Charité reported a total of 50.707 laboratory animals to the authorities. Approximately 99 per cent of the laboratory animals used were rodents, with mice making up around 89 per cent and rats just under 10 per cent of the animals. About one percent of the animals used at Charité were fish, rabbits, pigs and guinea pigs. Rabbits are used at the Charité for research into bone healing or tumour therapy, for example, while guinea pigs are used for research into therapies for hearing disorders.

Since pigs are very similar to humans in terms of the size of their organs and their anatomy, they are often used for research into cardiovascular diseases - as are sheep, which are also used for research into diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Pigs are also used to learn special human medical surgical techniques before they are applied to humans.

How high was the proportion of transgenic animals at Charité in 2018?

Use of genetically modified animals

About 24.000 of the animals used in animal experiments according to § 7 paragraph 2 of the Animal Protection Act were genetically modified. The proportion of these so-called transgenic animals was thus 47,52 per cent. Transgenic mice and fish were used in particular.

Genetically modified mice serve the scientists at Charité as research models in various research areas, for example in oncology for the development of various tumours. Genetically modified fish can be used to investigate many neuroscientific questions, including research on neuroblastoma, the second most common childhood cancer. Due to its property of being transparent even in adulthood, the fish species Danionella translucida is particularly suitable for investigating interactions between nerve cells. 

What levels of stress were the laboratory animals at Charité exposed to in 2018?

Categories of stress levels in animal experiments

How high was the exposure of the animals to the experiments and how many animals were used?

In addition to the number of animals used in the experiments and information on the species of animals 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 degree of stress or severity of the animal experiments.

Most of the animal experiments at Charité in 2018 placed a low degree of stress on the animals (48,47 per cent) while the proportion of animal experiments with a medium or severe degree of stress was around 33 and around five per cent respectively. The proportion of animal experiments conducted entirely under general anaesthesia, from which the animals did not awaken, was 13,25 per cent. This category includes experiments in which all procedures are performed under a single anaesthetic from which the animals do not awaken. It also includes animals that are killed for scientific purposes, for example to examine cell or tissue samples. They are included in the statistics under "No recovery of vital function".

In all experiments involving stress, scientists are obliged to minimise it by using painkillers and reducing stress. Prospectively, they must weigh the burden against the expected medical and scientific benefit when submitting 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.

In which areas were laboratory animals used at Charité in 2018?

Scientific testing purposes

At Charité, the largest share of animals in 2018 was used in basic clinical research, at around 73,76 per cent, and around 14 per cent in translational, clinical research. 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 2,67 per cent of the animals were used for toxicological or regulatory purposes. This area of legally prescribed testing includes, for example, preclinical testing of medical products or medicines. About 1,9 per cent of the animals were used for the education or training of scientists and animal caregivers working with animal experiments.