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Berlin-Brandenburg Research Platform BB3R

Decision making for the applicability of repeated testing in large animals

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The new animal welfare act requires systematic implementation of the concept of the 3Rs when using animals for research purposes. In order to be able to refine test conditions according to the guidelines of the concept, detailed knowledge of anatomical particularities of animal models is a necessity. Pigs, in particular the Göttingen Minipig, which in Europe is one of the large animal models most frequently seen in biomedical research, are used to develop new surgical techniques and procedures as well as to test surgical material and equipment, among others. Surgeons conducting experimental surgical procedures frequently enquire about anatomical and histological details, such as blood- vessel branching, measurements of parts of the skeleton, thickness of fasciae or segmental anatomy of parenchymatous organs. Due to lack of data, even extensive literature research is often unlikely to provide an answer to these enquiries. Incomplete knowledge of anatomical and histological details of these animals, particularly during the growth process, is the reason why experimental procedures are currently often subject to spur-of-the-moment decisions and therefore failure.

For this reason, the main objective of the research carried out at the Institute of Anatomy at the Freie Universität Berlin is establishing a collection of systematic data on the anatomy of various organ systems of the pig through findings that are based on computed tomography and available for different age groups. This data collection will be used to provide evidence on the comparability of anatomical structures of the pig as an animal model for human beings. It will also serve as the foundation for a database of the specific anatomy of the pig. Research to this effect will be a collaborative project between by PD Dr. med. Stefan Niehues of Charité Campus Benjamin Franklin and PD Dr. med. vet. Bernhard Hiebl, Head of the Division of Animal Research and in charge of animal welfare at the Medical Faculty at Martin-Luther-Universität in Halle, as well as Prof. Dr. Leo Brunnberg, Head of the Small Animal Clinic and Policlinic at the Department of Veterinary Medicine at FU Berlin. Gaining detailed knowledge of the anatomy of the pig as well as the selection of suitable age groups will contribute significantly to refine surgical procedures performed to test and develop new medical products, such as stents and grafts, and ultimately reduce the total number of animals required for animal testing.