I discovered a new resource this week, which seems like an excellent idea to reduce the number of mice being used in scientific research. The resource is called ShARM = Shared Ageing Research Models.
The aim of ShARM is help researchers in the UK and oversees to have greater access to information about aged mice. They do this in two ways:
1) ShARM hold a network database of live ageing colonies. This database provides information of all the researchers currently working on aged mice and the mice they currently keep. Therefore if you have a request to study a certain mouse strain at an old age the database can put you in touch with researchers who currently have these animals and therefore share information and tissue.
2) ShARM provides a tissue bank, which acquires and stores frozen tissue from aged mice. This tissue would otherwise have been discarded but the tissue bank allows it to be given to researchers who require a certain tissue to study. For example, one researcher may have some old animals they have bred to look at the effect on the liver. They use the liver tissue for experiments then donate the other tissue to the ShARM tissue bank who store it until it is required by a researcher who is interested in another tissue.
To study ageing diseases, we need aged mouse models, which have very similar ageing processes to humans. However, to breed and keep mice until they are old is expensive and also ethically not viable. The typical life span of a lab mouse is 1.5-2 years. Therefore an experiment into ageing diseases can be a lengthy, unethical and costly procedure.
These two facilities provided by ShARM allows the sharing of information and mice tissue, which will allow research in aged related diseases to progress at a quicker pace AND importantly reduce the amount of animals that are used in research. This is of great importance in our current climate where financial costs are putting a great strain on scientists, this facility will allow research projects to be carried out with less costs. The resource is also of great importance to the ethical dilemma of using animals in research as it raises the awareness of the 3Rs (the refinement, reduction and replacement of animals in research).