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Developed over 50 years ago, the 3Rs form a concrete foundation for improved rodent welfare in preclinical research. The principles of Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement are fundamental to animal testing legislation on both a national and international level. Compliance with a 3Rs approach within preclinical research is essential to ensure approval and the constant support of funding bodies worldwide.
Since 2004, the NC3Rs has worked to uphold high welfare standards, and to promote and further facilitate the reduction, refinement, and replacement of animals within research. Actual Analytics has so far won two of the NC3Rs CRACK-IT Challenges. Both were designed to accelerate the development, application, and commercialisation of technologies with 3Rs potential as they emerge from the research base.
The team behind ActualHCA seeks to improve the quality of preclinical trials. This is achieved by adhering to the reduction and refinement protocols given by the NC3Rs and increasing the amount of data attainable per rodent. We have developed a system that achieves better welfare without compromising the quality of your research; in fact, it improves it.
Currently, the replacement of rodents within drug discovery is not yet possible. Rodent research is essential to ensuring that safety-related attrition is reduced as much as possible during clinical stages.
ActualHCA does, however, prevent excessive use and testing, and it will eventually allow for the replacement of rodents in many studies. ActualHCA is also designed to store all of the raw data from studies, and this footage can be reanalysed as needed when algorithms are redefined. Thus, video footage from previous experiments can be used for new analysis, eliminating the need for rodents in many future studies.
ActualHCA obtains 90% more data, using 50% fewer rodents, than traditional methods. Not only does this mean a reduction in the number of rodents required for testing, it also increases the opportunities for longitudinal studies.
In some studies, separate treatment groups can be mixed into different cages, giving you a data point per cage per animal and reducing the number of animals needed while retaining the same statistical power. This is not only beneficial from a cost perspective, but it is also excellent for data acquisition and 3Rs compliance.
Housing rodents alone or removing them from the home cage for tests causes restlessness and anxiety. As Dr Sarah Wells of the MRC Harwell puts it, “mice don’t like new places, and they do like other mice.” When rodents are distressed, the signs they display are easily confused for signs of neurobehavioural, CNS, or drug- or disease-related symptoms, and vice versa. ActualHCA allows them to be housed in their social, comfortable, home cage environment with identity retained, so a baseline of “normal” behaviour can be easily established.
Using a combination of infrared lighting and scalable computing, ActualHCA can offer monitoring and footage 24/7, consistently, for months. The software identifies behaviours associated with neurobehavioural or CNS issues, including rearing and sleep disturbance, using rich locomotor and circadian data combined with video analytics. The reduction in the amount of negative variables refines the data collection process, improving rodent welfare while offering better data and research opportunities.
With the exception of the subcutaneous injection required for RFID chip implantation, the ActualHCA system is almost entirely non-invasive.