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Re-using Cow Eyes to Replace Animal Tests

Story supplied by LU Press Office

A proposal to re-use cow eyes left over as abattoir waste, as a replacement for animal tests, is one of nine projects that have been awarded funding by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

This is the Centre's second year of funding and a total of £1.4 million has been awarded, compared with £1 million in the first year. The main aim of six of the grants is to replace animal use in some way, one grant aims to reduce the numbers currently used, and another two grants aim to refine experiments to minimise the suffering of the animals used.

The NC3Rs was launched in September 2004 by Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science, to provide a focus for 3Rs activity in the UK.

One of the grants has been awarded to Dr Fullwood of Lancaster University for his proposal to use the cornea of cow eyes, a by-product of the meat industry, to carry out research that is currently done using the eyes of live animals. This includes research into diseases causing blindness, such as keratoconus or Fuch's dystrophy, and the tests on new products carried out by commercial companies.

Dr Fullwood said: "The aim is to maintain the cornea from the cows in special chambers that allow them to remain alive for several weeks. There is an irrigation system to replicate the protective effect of tears on the surface of the eye, and the underside is supplied with the necessary nutrients.

"With this funding we hope to test whether these artificially-maintained eyes respond in similar ways to a living eye, by comparing the data collected, with the extensive data that already exists from previous testing on live animals.

"If proved effective, this technique could replace some of the current tests carried out on the eyes of live animals - and this could be the case both for fundamental disease research and for commercial applications such as toxicological testing."

Mon 14 August 2006

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