Published On : 2019-04-04
Animal models have been used in pathological and biological studies owing to their functional resemblance to human bodies. Due to the crucial role of animal models in exploring the causes of diseases in humans and developing safe treatments, collaborative research projects using animal models are being carried on in Europe and funded by the European Commission. The European Commission provides support through multiannual framework programs. The funding for each project is on an average €10-11 million and funding duration is 4 to 5 years. The European Commission also provides protection and welfare of animals used for scientific purposes. Moreover, animal studies done for physiological studies and development of new medicines need to comply with EU legislation.
Currently, Germany, France, and UK have the highest number of animals used in research activities in Europe. Mice, rats, cold-blooded animals, birds, rabbits, and guinea pigs are different types of species of animals used in research and development activities across Europe. Increasing penetration of chronic diseases and viruses has led to the dramatic increase in use of animal models in the region. Below are the top trends in the animal model market in Europe.
Animal models in Europe are being used on a large scale for the research and development of novel vaccines. A workshop was also organized in 2018 by EDUFLUVAC consortium which is funded by European Union and coordinated by European vaccine initiative. The experts discussed ongoing and future perspectives for testing reactive influenza vaccines in animal models.
Special emphasis is being given on safety for the transition of clinical development and influenza vaccine. Efficient animal models to evaluate this safety aspect are still being identified. Meanwhile, implementation of joint research infrastructure for rapid vaccine development is also one of the key focus areas of European Union.
The use of mouse models in cancer research is growing with an aim to explore the link between carcinogenesis and cancer genes. Widespread availability and low cost factors are contributing to the growing demand for mouse models in research on cancer and other chronic diseases. The European Mutant Mouse Archive (EMMA) as primary mouse repository in Europe is focusing on preserving and availability of mouse models for biomedical research community in Europe. The European Association for Cancer Research is also organizing the workshop innovative mouse models with an aim to discuss novel technologies developed in the field of innovative mouse models.
In recent years, genetically engineered mouse models have become fundamental in oncology research with rise in cancer deaths in Europe. Among various types of cancers, lung cancer has emerged as the leading cause of cancer deaths in the region.
Neurological disorders, especially dementia, is one of the biggest causes of disability and dependency among aging population in Europe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), currently, dementia affects nearly 10 million people in Europe and is likely to double by 2030. Rise in neurological disorders in the region is leading to the growth in research and development activities using animal models. In recent years, rodents have been found suitable to serve as models for basic neurological process as well as for complex and cognitive operations including memory, perception, decision making, and social interaction.
The European Research Council has also established advanced project ‘CONCEPT’ in order to understand bases of memory, decision making, and perception using rodents and other technically advanced instruments.
Improved animal models of the Alzheimer condition can boost the drug development process. Although researchers worldwide have conducted several trials in people for treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, very little success have been achieved. One of the main concerns is the animal models that are used in the drug development process for Alzheimer’s disease.
Mice have been used on a large scale for research on the Alzheimer’s disease, however, researchers have faced various difficulties in translating findings from mice to trials in human beings. This is leading to the search for new animal models. The European Union is sponsoring IMPRiND, a consortium of research organizations for development of standardized macaque model for research and development activities on Alzheimer’s disease. Macaques has emerged as the popular choice among researchers working on Alzheimer’s disease.
The European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA) promotes the application of three R’s including replacement, reduction, and refinement of animal testing in Europe. The ‘Three R’s’ means animal studies should be replaced by methods that do not involve animals, or reduce the animals used and needed, or refined experiments to minimize pain and suffering.
With the rise in controversies on the use of animals in scientific research, Europe is focusing on the development of non-animal approaches. Moreover, the EU also aims to modernize rules on animals used in research activities.
Animal models have become an important part in biomedical research in Europe. However, the lack of transparency and openness in many research centers in Europe is leading to misconceptions about use of animal models and animal research in the region.
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