Schools of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Pharmacology) and Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (Biomedical Resource Unit) host Integrative and Organs Systems Pharmacology (IOSP) Workshop.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal Schools of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Pharmacology) and Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (Biomedical Resource Unit, BRU) recently hosted a workshop at the Westville campus from 8-11 July 2014. The workshop was convened by Dr Johannes Bodenstein (Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology) and Dr Sanil Singh (Head of BRU) as a satellite meeting of the World Congress of Pharmacology (WCP 2014) held in Cape Town from 13-18 July 2014, and an initiative of the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) to train the next generation of young integrative scientists. More than 30 delegates from mainly African countries attended the workshop.
The four day interactive workshop, which was the first of its kind to be held at UKZN, presented an array of local and international speakers. It also included behind the scenes visits to the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board and uShaka Marine World to learn about the specialised research conducted at these facilities. Delegates were enthused with talks by international speakers Dr David Lewis (Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Bioethics, University of Leeds, UK) and Professor Hans-Peter Lipp (Professor Emeritus, Human Anatomy, University of Zürich, Switzerland; Fractionate Professorship at UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences). Local speakers comprised of Dr Sanil Singh (Manager, BRU), Dr Linda Bester (Senior Laboratory Animal Technologist of BRU), Dr Peter Owira (Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology), Dr Bert Mohr (Director of the Centre for Animal Research at the University of Cape Town and a Scientific Investigator in the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa), Dr Sean Cheevers (Specialist in Occupational Medicine; Guest Lecturer to UKZN’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health) and Ms Charon de Villiers (Research Manager at Delft Animal Centre of the Medical Research Council in Cape Town).
Animal ethics and welfare were at the forefront of the workshop. ‘In pursuit of ethical animal research, there is a great need to develop a course that suits the South African context. We hope that the information gathered at this workshop about animal models and handling, along with environmental enrichment, can help those involved in research. Just as many social aspects affect humans, they affect animals as well, and it is a very important yardstick for us to evaluate our ethical behaviour in animal research.’ said Dr Sanil Singh in his opening address.
Topics of discussion during the workshop pertained to humane experimental techniques, practical animal handling, ethical use of animals in research, and pain management in laboratory animal research. ‘Animals are living entities and we should respect their contribution. In sharing good practices and making colleagues aware of what new techniques and practices are out there, any form of bettering animal welfare is a concern’ said Dr Singh.
Delegates toured the Biomedical Resource Unit (BRU) on Westville campus. Dr Linda Bester, post-graduate students and volunteers explained basic experiments performed in laboratory animal sciences along with protocol planning, practical animal handling and restraint as well as the latest surgical techniques.
Dr Bert Mohr explained that there is a moral philosophy and public sensitivity associated with animal research. ‘Animals are useful models of human biology and by law, pharmacology drugs have to be legally tested and examined on animals before being available to humans. There is a lot of concern in terms of animal use and testing.’ Mohr presented a talk entitled: The Principles of Humane Experimental Techniques. ‘Safety testing occurs before-hand for drugs to get sold, and while there are failures, this is done so as to ensure little human side effects. The ARRIVE guidelines (Animal Research Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) have said that one of the greatest criticisms of animal research is the poorly published or reporting of the study. All 29 guidelines must be adhered within any study so as to justify the quality of the experiment.’
Mohr spoke about the use of sentient beings in laboratory research. ‘Sentient beings are animals that are conscious and have subjective experiences where their feelings are important to the animal. They have sensations, emotions, social behaviour, empathy and altruism, as well as a memory, communication and culture.’ Animals are useful models for human biology and are entitled to five specific freedoms.
These are freedom from hunger and thirst, pain, injury and disease, and fear, distress and discomfort. They also have freedom to express normal behaviour. The guiding principles of animal laboratory research, known as the 3 Rs, were core elements discussed at the workshop. Reduction of suffering in fewer animals is something that needs to be practiced. Refinement and fine tuning should be done in laboratory procedures so as to make experiments better and most effective. The aspect of replacement should always be questioned. Is there an alternative? Non animal models, invertebrates and immature animals can also be used. ‘Every animal is an individual in our care and respect is needed when treating these animals. Animals are used all over the world for many things, but in specific to the workshop, animals are also used for scientific purposes, for the testing of drugs and diseases, for research and for teaching and training. Only once non-animal models are found, shall animal usage in science begin to decrease.’
Dr Dave Lewis presented a talk called: “Animal models and alternatives - all the information required to make informed decisions in planning a protocol”. Lewis explained the use of animal alternatives in laboratory research and how to minimise animal distress as much as possible. ‘The question we should always ask ourselves is, should we be using animals for testing or should we be using non-animal alternatives? We should use animals in instances where we can’t find alternatives to address our scientific questions. ‘There should be a minimum use of animals in the scientific experiment with a maximised high quality data set with unambiguous data.
Objectives and endpoints need to be clear and measurable for the best practice. Only the most appropriate techniques should be used, so that it is possible to do in future by other scientists, should the need arise. There needs to be humane endpoints as a result of good lab practice and guidance.’ Partial and total replacement of animals in research was also mentioned, with Lewis explaining that sometimes total replacement of an animal isn’t possible but that using cell tissues or animal cultures are sometimes needed. Lewis also encouraged that researchers look at databases to see what they can use to replace animals.
Zakia Jeewa and Dr Johannes Bodenstein