Labs Take Care to Relieve Animals’ Stress

(DGIwire) – For nearly 60 years, life science researchers working with animals in the laboratory have adhered to a set of informal guidelines to ensure the animals’ well-being: the “3Rs.” First described by W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch in their 1959 book The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, this expression stands for “replacement, reduction and refinement.” As noted on, “replacement” involves the mandate to use non-animal alternatives in research whenever and wherever possible; “reduction” urges that the number of animals being used is kept to an absolute minimum; and “refinement” refers to improving animals’ quality of life during captivity in an effort to minimize their stress.

Today, as recently reported on, even newer sets of guidelines have been formulated to help researchers plan their experiments in ways that maximize animal welfare and stress the 3Rs. These include ARRIVE (Animal Research Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) and PREPARE (Planning Research and Experimental Procedures on Animals: Recommendations for Excellence).

“Compliance with the 3Rs and related guidelines is a major factor for implementing and maintaining the highest quality of animal research,” says Jeffrey Duchemin, President and CEO of Harvard Bioscience. “One key element in securing this important goal involves advances in instrumentation that are designed to give animals the maximum amount of freedom while data are being collected.”

One significant advancement in this area is wireless continuous glucose monitoring, which provides preclinical metabolic researchers with a method for collecting more information while at the same time serving to improve animal welfare.

This method involves implanting a telemetry device capable of recording glucose levels into the body of a laboratory animal. Although calibration is required, only one to three blood samples need to be obtained from each animal weekly to ensure accurate measurements. The device operates by continuously sensing and simultaneously transmitting these data from the animal to a receiver situated in close proximity to the animal’s living quarters. Since the animal is able to move around freely in its lab habitat, these data are collected free from artifact associated with human interaction.

The practical result of adopting telemetry is higher-quality data collected around-the-clock, and the ability to obtain more precise data that are free from  artifact, including the stress that results from human interaction. It has been estimated that greater than 90 percent of telemetry data sets are free from stress, meaning the data collected are superior from the standpoint of researchers.

“Ensuring that animals are free from stress while in the laboratory is a must, both in order to promote their welfare and to collect the best data for use in research for human medicine,” Duchemin adds.