Laboratory animal use in Belgium
Each year, more than 500.000 laboratory animals are used in Belgium for various scientific and educational purposes. However, the use of laboratory animals is challenged due to ethical, economic and scientific concerns. Moreover, the legislation on the use of laboratory animals has become more stringent over the past years. According to EU Directive 2010/63, animals may only be used for scientific or educational purposes if no alternative is available. This directive was transposed into the Belgian Royal Decree (RD) on the protection of laboratory animals (29 May 2013). This RD is the responsibility of the Animal Welfare Departments, and is implemented on a regional level. In order to better comply with this legislation, the RE-Place project has been initiated.
Aim of the RE-Place project
New and innovative technologies continue to be developed across the life sciences. In recent years computer modelling, artificial intelligence, sophisticated cell cultures, organ-on-a-chip and many more technologies have tremendously advanced. These technologies are also referred to as “New Approach Methodologies (NAMs)”.
In regulatory toxicology, NAMs are successfully applied for different endpoints, especially in the field of local toxicity, thereby resulting in the use of less or even no experimental animals. For systemic toxicity, the situation is more complex. The same is true for biomedical research, where despite the availability of cutting-edge technologies at (inter)national level, animal experimentation is needed in most cases. Nevertheless, NAMs play a very valuable role in tackling these scientific queries, both as stand-alone or when combined with animal experimentation.
As the development and practical use of NAMs are continuously evolving, it may be difficult for (young) scientists to find relevant information on NAMs. In order to facilitate access to this type of information, the Flemish government initiated the project “RE-Place” in 2017 which aims to centralize the existing expertise on NAMs in Belgium in one database. Later on, the Brussels government joined this project.
The RE-Place database will not only provide a reliable overview of different NAMs, but also the names of the experts and research centres where these techniques can be learned.
Benefits of the RE-Place project
An up-to-date inventory of the available knowledge will:
- Promote the use of NAMs leading to an increased use thereof;
- Stimulate the further development of new techniques, methods and strategies;
- Allow the identification of knowledge gaps, and hence support future funding.
Through this initiative scientists and organisations will be able to:
- Increase the visibility of their work and latest findings to the government, the scientific community and the public;
- Connect with peers and exchange experience on NAMs;
- Identify the right experts, within and outside their own organisation, to engage in (new) collaborations;
- Contribute to innovative science.
Which methods does RE-Place want to collect?
The RE-Place database aims to capture methods in basic and applied research that avoid the direct use of animals, used as stand-alone or combined with animal experimentation to collect the information of interest. NAMs are thus not necessarily one-on-one replacement methods, but can contribute to the overall replacement or reduction of animal testing. They can thus also be a single step within a broader research strategy and include different types of:
- In vitro and ex vivo methods (e.g. experiments with the use of 2D - 3D cell lines and tissue cultures, NRU Phototoxicity Test, AMES, BCOP, …);
- In silico modeling (e.g. molecular modeling and mathematical approaches, PBPK models, QSAR, read across, …);
- In chemico techniques (e.g. assays evaluating the reactivity and properties of substances or components);
- Alternative in vivo models (e.g. fruit flies, flatworms, early stages of zebrafish, …);
- Imaging techniques (e.g. cellular imaging techniques, or imaging with a clear application to the replacement of laboratory animals);
- High-throughput testing strategies and omics techniques (e.g. genomics, metabolomics, proteomics and transcriptomics);
- Other innovative techniques (e.g. organ-on-a-chip);
Why should you submit your expertise?
Submitting your expertise allows to create a reliable inventory of the knowledge on NAMs that is available in Belgium and where to find it. As such, efforts done by Belgian scientists will become more visible to the (inter)national scientific community, and will help to create a realistic overview of the NAMs that are actually used today.
You can submit information (scope of the method, short description, keywords,..) for all NAMs in which you have experience via the pink button ‘Submit Method’. These methods do not necessarily have to be developed by yourself, or your organization, but your personal know-how on NAMs is the essential information we are looking for.
Examples of NAMs
- Application of human stem cell-derived myocardial cells in the safety evaluation of medicines in development - Ivan Kopljar (Janssen Farmaceutica) Download here (979.63 KB)
- Eye irritation: the comparison of different alternative methods - An Van Rompay (VITO) Download here (1.79 MB)
In biomedical research
- "State-of-the-art' of in vitro models to replace animal testing - Bart Landuyt (KU Leuven) Download here (1020.99 KB)
- Alternative models for screening of (re)myelination in the central nervous system - Tim Vanmierlo (UHasselt) Download here (1.11 MB)
- Alternatives and new models in neurobiological research - Liesbeth Aerts (VIB / KU Leuven) Download here (1.69 MB)
- The current status of validated 3R alternative methods - Vera Rogiers (VUB) Download here (1.08 MB)
- Mechanistic toxicology as a starting point for non-animal methodologies - Mathieu Vinken (VUB) Download here (990.42 KB)
- Genotoxicity: in vitro methods and potential alternatives for in vivo research - Luc Verschaeve (Sciensano) Download here (1.51 MB)
- Prediction of acute and chronic thyroid toxicity in early life stages of the zebrafish - Dries Knapen (UAntwerpen) Download here (6.96 MB)