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Preclinical Technology Reaches New Heights

New technological innovations are improving the process of preclinical testing by generating richer data, resulting in higher validation of results. Here, we take a look at the three most exciting recent developments in testing technology.

NIR Optical Imaging

As Professor Paul Matthews told the NC3Rs last year, near infrared (NIR) optical imaging tools have exciting potential in the preclinical field, particularly as we work towards reduction, refinement, and replacement in animal testing.

NIR optical imaging offers an alternative to MRI that can be used successfully on both animals and humans. This technology allows for deeper penetration than MRI, it works across the entire body, and animals can move around freely during scanning. It doesn’t require extensive training to use, and considerations like restraint and anaesthesia do not apply. From both a scientific and a 3Rs perspective, NIR optical imaging is the wave of the future.


The ActualHCA system for preclinical testing produces 90% more data using 50% fewer rodents than standard methods. It is comprised of the real home cage, an RFID baseplate, and a powerful HD camera partnered with complex behaviour analysis software. The system allows 24/7 data capture and analysis in the long term.

ActualHCA automatically detects the behaviour, movement, and temperature of rodents within the true group-housed IVC home cage. Individual rodent identity is retained, so each rodent’s movements and behaviour can be monitored singly or as part of a collective within the cage environment. The behavioural software, developed with the MRC, is “trained” to identify specific behaviours and highlight them on the footage so researchers don’t have to sit through hours of video to find symptom indicators. This greatly reduces human error in observation, and means that the rodents can be closely observed at night when they are most active. ActualHCA is set to substantially change 3Rs compliance, data acquisition, and rodent welfare protocols over the next few years.

CRISPR Gene Editing Technology

CRISPR, a collection of DNA sequences, identifies unwanted DNA and the Cas enzymes snip it, leaving it unable to replicate. Cas9, derived from Streptococcus pyogenes, is the best-known Cas enzyme at the moment. Adapting these two natural processes, originally derived from bacterial defence mechanisms, has produced fascinating results in manipulating and editing genes. So far CRISPR has been used in a range of preclinical experiments on mice, from curing genetic conditions to treating cancer.

Having the ability to edit genes so precisely allows researchers to breed new mouse models with different genetic knockouts in just a few months. This limits waste, which is excellent for 3Rs compliance.

All of these technologies are fascinating, and they all have hugely exciting potential for future use, so watch this space for more updates. For more information on ActualHCA, contact us today or browse the product page.