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 2020
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.
How many laboratory animals and which animal species were used at Charité in 2020?
At Charité, scientists used a total of 46.481 laboratory animals in 2020. This is around 5.000 animals fewer than in the previous year. The decrease in the number of laboratory animals is primarily due 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. Animal house operations are also subject to Corona regulations, so fewer new experiments were started during the pandemic.
By far the largest proportion of animals used at Charité were mice (42.519 in total). Charité scientists also 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 2020?
About 25.000 of the animals used in animal experiments in 2020 according to § 7 paragraph 2 of the Animal Protection Act were genetically modified. The proportion of so-called transgenic animals was thus 53 per cent.
The number of experiments with genetically modified mice reflects the high importance of these animals for basic biomedical research and preclinical research. They are a hitherto indispensable way of understanding how environment and genes, together with various organ systems, lead to a disease and contribute to its course. For example, researchers have succeeded in identifying genes involved in the development of diabetes mellitus (diabetes) in both mice and humans. New therapeutic approaches can be developed using 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 are being sought to influence these degenerate cells.
What levels of stress were the laboratory animals at Charité exposed to in 2020?
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.
Most of the animal experiments at Charité in 2020 stressed the animals either to a low degree (26 per cent) or to a medium degree (26,3 per cent), while the proportion of animal experiments with severe stress was 2 per cent. The proportion of animal experiments conducted entirely under general anaesthesia, from which the animals did not awaken, was 46 per cent. This category includes experiments in which all procedures are performed within a single anaesthetic. 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 restoration 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.
In which areas were laboratory animals used at Charité in 2020?
At Charité in 2020, the largest share of animals, around 76 per cent, was used in basic biomedical research and around 13 per cent 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 per cent 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.