What kind of research with animals?

Weighing a mouse at EPFL’s Center of Phenogenomics © Bruno Marquis

Weighing a mouse at EPFL’s Center of Phenogenomics © Bruno Marquis

Research in key areas of human and animal health requires specific animal models in combination with other approaches (in silico, in vitro). Indeed, the use of animals in research at EPFL is not systematic, while multiple research groups at EPFL are working on replacement models.

Research areas at EPFL requiring animal models

Thanks to animal experimentation, EPFL’s scientists have been able to achieve significant breakthroughs in various domains. Here is a list of the most recent ones:

  • Immunotherapy: Discovery of an engineered fusion protein that can reprogram the metabolism of the body’s immune cells to boost their effectiveness in fighting cancer. More info here.
  • Breast cancer: Development of a breakthrough in vivo model for invasive lobular carcinoma, a serious yet understudied type of breast cancer. The work will open up previously inaccessible study of the tumor’s biology and help discover new therapies. More info here.
  • Obesity/Metabolism: Identification of a new role for bile acids: they curb appetite by entering the brain. The findings provide new insights into the signals and mechanisms by which satiety is controlled. More info here.
  • Paraplegia: A team of Swiss and Canadian scientists has developed a treatment that allows patients to regain control of their blood pressure, using targeted electrical spinal-cord stimulation. More info here.
  • Deafness correction: Development of a conformable electrode implant that will allow people with a dysfunctional inner ear to hear again. This new device could replace existing auditory brainstem implants, which have a number of shortcomings. More info here.

Species on EPFL Campus

Numbers

In 2020, EPFL conducted research with 23,294 animals on campus, of which 93% were mice.

Degree of severity

Weighing the potential of animal potential suffering against the need to learn, discover, and cure is a central concern. The constraints caused by interventions or measures carried out in an experiment are classified according to their degree of severity, ranging from 0 (no constraint) to 3 (severe constraint). It is important to emphasize that the expected benefits to society of animal experiments must be greater than the suffering and violation of the animals’ dignity, as stated in the Swiss legislation. The weighing of interests is established according to a very strict authorization and control process, described here.

For more information, check the document edited by swissuniversities: Research and animal experimentation in switzerland: degrees of severity.