Virtual tools to limit animal experimentation



Each year, nearly 2 million animals are used in France for scientific research (essentially mice, rats, fish and rabbits). This highly supervised animal experimentation is subject to the ethical rule of the “3Rs”: “reduce” the number of animals used as much as possible; “refine” the chosen methodology; and finally “replacing” animals with alternatives when possible.

At the Angers Faculty of Health, two third-year medical students carried out a study to find out if the use of virtual anatomy tools would make it possible to further reduce their use. “They were a little shaken by the number of animals sacrificed each year for scientific work, underlines Professor Ludovic Martin, director of the virtual simulation center of the CHU of Angers. It is not a question of no longer using it, because it is essential for medical research, but of asking whether minimization strategies exist. »

An audit of research procedures

In Angers, science and health students have the chance to have access to a virtual anatomy table (called Anatomage), capable of digitally reproducing the body of a human or an animal from every angle. “Just like for humans, this huge tablet allows you to learn the anatomy of the animal and to observe the way in which the organs and the tissues coexist., continues the doctor. It allows you to dissect a virtual body ad infinitum. Unlike real animals, you can do it as many times as you want. »

→ INVESTIGATION. Laboratory animals, practices are changing

The two students therefore went through the procedures of the research carried out between 2015 and 2019 by an Anjou team from Inserm, CarMe, specializing in cardiovascular pathologies. With the help of a technician from this laboratory, they came to the conclusion that the virtual anatomy table could preserve 10% of the animals used in this work. Nationally, this solution would save thousands of animal lives every year. “It was a real discovery, says the professor. The next step is to verify the feasibility in this practice. It would be interesting to imagine in the future integrating into the research process a step consisting in evaluating the number of “sparable” animals by an alternative method.. »

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