More than one million people have signed a petition which threatens to repeal European regulations for animal research. Dr Sherie Wright, Senior Corporate Governance and Policy Officer at the MRC, explains why animal research is so important, and why efforts to ban it in Europe could compromise both animal welfare and scientific research.
The ‘Stop Vivisection’ European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is founded on the erroneous belief that animal research is “useless for humans and exposes us to serious risks with regard to our future well-being”. It seeks to repeal the European Directive 2010/63/EU which regulates the use of animals (vertebrates and some others) in research in EU countries.
We understand why many people are uncomfortable with animal research. No one enjoys using animals, but it is far from useless. And while progress is being made towards developing non-animal research methods, it remains the best option we have in many areas of science.
We use animals because of their similarity to humans. The biology we share with vertebrates make them incredibly useful models for learning about biological processes.
Animal research has also led to significant advances in our understanding and treatment of both human and animal disease. The list of medical interventions made possible by animal research is long, from organ transplantation and the development of antibiotics, to anaesthetics and vaccines. Read more
The MRC National Institute for Medical Research closed at the end of March, with much of its research and scientists moving to the new Francis Crick Institute. Dr Qiling Xu, now a researcher at the Crick Institute, wanted to capture something of the spirit of NIMR ― and decided that taking up paintbrushes and embroidery needles would be an excellent way to do so.
On the 1 April, the NIMR ceased to exist and became the Crick Mill Hill Laboratory. To mark this event, I suggested we produced a textile artwork as a lasting memento. We invited each research lab, support section and club to create an artwork on a small square of cloth, which we then stitched together to form a single work that celebrates the science, life and ethos of NIMR. Read more
Entomologist Musa Jawara has worked at MRC Unit, The Gambia for three decades, investigating mosquito behaviour, malaria transmission, and control methods, including pioneering work in transmission-blocking vaccines and the development of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) for malaria prevention. He showed Isabel Baker around his work space at Wali Kunda, on the banks of the River Gambia, where he catches, breeds and dissects mosquitoes, and tries not to catch malaria in the process.
Musa Jawara at the Wali Kunda field site
To study and understand malaria epidemiology and control you must look at the parasite, the host and the vector. I focus on the vector ― the mosquito ― and try to understand how to prevent it from transmitting malaria by learning about its behaviour.
To study mosquitoes, we have to catch them first! One way is using this simple device called an aspirator (or pooter) ― a glass or plastic pipe with a rubber tube attached at one end and a filter to block the passage of mosquitoes into the tube. You point the tube towards the mosquito and suck gently to avoid crushing the insect.