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

Over the last years, a lot of progress has been made in the field of alternative methods to animal testing, and many valuable in vitro, ex vivo, in silico and in chemico assays have been developed. These are also referred to as “New Approach Methodologies (NAMs)”.

However, the existing knowledge on these methods is extremely scattered and there is insufficient communication between the different stakeholders. Therefore, the Flemish and Brussels regions have initiated the project “RE-Place", which aims to gather the existing expertise on the use of NAMs in one central database.

By centralizing information on NAMs, scientists will be able to identify experts in the field of NAMs per research area, and contact them directly. This will improve knowledge sharing between all involved stakeholders (scientists, industry, government, regulatory bodies,…).

Benefits of the RE-Place project

An extensive overview of the available knowledge will:

  • Promote the use of NAMs and thus lead to an increased use ;
  • Stimulate the further development of new techniques, methods and strategies ;
  • Allow the identification of knowledge gaps, and more efficient allocation of 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 the use of NAMs ;
  • Identify the right experts, within and outside their own organisation, to engage in (new) collaborations ;
  • Contribute to good science and progress in the field of animal free innovation.

Which methods does RE-Place want to collect?

All methods that help to unravel scientific questions related to human and animal health, and that can contribute to the ultimate reduction and replacement of the use of laboratory animals. Examples include:

  • 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);

Examples of NAMs

In industry

  • 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 systemTim Vanmierlo (UHasselt) Download here (1.11 MB)
  • Alternatives and new models in neurobiological research Liesbeth Aerts (VIB / KU Leuven) Download here (1.69 MB)

 

In toxicology

  • 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)