Technology Improving Treatments
Laboratory animals are subjects for research in countless fields, like cancer studies, pharmaceutical testing, and more. But, their valuable service has not gone unnoticed.
Animal rights activists, of course, have been vocal about testing on any animals, But, most people have come to terms with animal experimentation. They have traded outrage for empathetic appreciation for their sacrifice, as long as the researchers and handlers have been caring and humane in treatment.
According to RapID Lab, “There is no doubting the importance of animal research. A great many medical breakthroughs have relied on it. Nearly every Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine has made use of animal data for their research since 1901,” but research and animals would benefit from automated lab animal identification.
Several highly credible organizations have issued guidelines and ethical standards on the treatment of lab animals.
The American Psychological Association ruled, “The acquisition, care, housing, use, and disposition of nonhuman animals in research must be in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local, laws and regulations, institutional policies, and with international conventions to which the United States is a party.”
The USDA administers the Animal Welfare Act that makes research grants contingent on laboratories following the Act’s rules and principles.
The AAALAC (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International) extends accreditation to research programs which “demonstrate that they meet the minimum standards required by law, and are also going the extra step to achieve excellence in animal care and use.”
These and other agencies seek to secure common standards of laboratory treatment of animals by heavily influencing the funding. In short, it is difficult for corporate and university labs to launch expensive research programs without their stamps of approval.
Image via Wikimedia
Rules monitor the storage of lab mice. For example, they need certain caging, space, and temperature conditions.
Testing requires identification of each animal in a test. They are identified by breeding, gender, age, and other factors.
Historically, labs have used different techniques to mark the animals. For example, they might tattoo mice tails with alphanumeric codes in indelible inks or mark the animal skin or fur with temporary markers.
Others surgically insert microchip transponders while some attach metal tags to the mouse’s ear. Both of these techniques risk infection and physical damage to the mouse, and this invalidates the test.
The commonly used metal tags are punched through the mouse’s ear where they are often damaged by the chewing of other mice.
High Tech Solution
Automated lab identification systems, for example offer an alternative. They are made from a non-biological polymer that fights infection, applies and removes easily, withstands sterilization in autoclave and passage through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
It applies like a pierced earring. There is a removable anchor on the back and a square on the front that holds a scannable 2-D barcode.
The brightly colored tags help lab assistants sort and cage animals with minimum handling and anxiety.
The barcode contains a wealth of data on the mouse’s characteristics, DNA, and testing experience. When scanned, that data integrates with testing databases.
The entire process reduces stress on animals and handlers, collects and transmits accurate data, and results in reusable units. This, in turn, reduces costs and repeated research.
Laboratory mice have served humanity well, and research has learned that respectful treatment of test animals improves the science and budget while limiting the animal’s’ discomfort.