Animal species

The animal species used in research at TNO and Triskelion BV are shown in Table 2. The species used for a specific test depends on the predictive value for humans or on legislation. Traditionally rodents (mice and rats) have mainly been used given the plentiful availability of historical data. However, rodents are not always the best model for humans and so other species and transgenic mice are sometimes used. The use of animal species with better predictability prevents unnecessary testing.

At both TNO and Triskelion BV the animal species is selected that best fits the research topic. In collaboration with Triskelion BV, TNO has developed a zebrafish model for toxicological research. Fertilised zebrafish eggs can be used as an alternative method for establishing prenatal development toxicity and neurotoxicity. The eggs are collected and tested without having to expose the mature parent. A whole study can be performed with the fertilised eggs and young larvae of a small number of parents. The zebrafish is also suitable for general toxicity research that traditionally uses rodents. In the future this method may replace studies using rodents. Research using fertilised eggs and larvae falls outside the legislative laboratory animal registration, hence its non-inclusion in Table 2. In 2016 some 5000 fertilised zebrafish eggs were used for toxicological research in 29 studies.

In 2016 TNO almost exclusively used rodents in its research, mice (89%) and  rats (4%). Two third of the mice are transgenic mice. Since these animals contain a human gene, they are suitable for research into human diseases. TNO breeds most of these specific mice itself. A key aspect here is to use the animals that are born as efficiently as possible, and one way that TNO achieves this is to coordinate the breeding centrally so that demand and supply are matched as much as possible.

Besides this, TNO also executed an experiment on site with cows in which the animals were not sacrificed in the end, but kept as farm animals.

Table 2: Animal species and numbers used at TNO and Triskelion BV in 2016

Triskelion BV uses mainly rodents and rabbits , with almost 70% of the laboratory animals being rats, in general for regulatory product safety studies (food ingredients, drugs and chemical substances), while mice make up a quarter of the laboratory animals used. At Triskelion BV mice are being used to establish the efficacy of new vaccines.

Reuse of animals

If research requires the use of animal organs or tissue, TNO and Triskelion BV make every effort to prevent the death of animals for these specific purposes. Like using the eyes of slaughtered chickens to test substances for eye irritation, and for skin irritation tests the use of the skin from rats that are killed in the context of other tests. TNO has a partnership agreement with Utrecht University and several other research institutes in the Netherlands to obtain organs and tissue from pigs sacrificed for the purpose of training veterinary students or pigs that have been used in previous studies. For research into the intestinal uptake of substances requiring fresh intestinal material, TNO received intestinal material from 20 pigs.

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