2 February 2012
For a quarter of a century, the LDF has funded David Dewhurst in his work to develop and refine software packages to replace animal use on physiology and pharmacology courses.
Not only does this ensure that the students’ learning experience is humane, teaching them to use advanced techniques rather than animals, but it also allows the students more flexibility. If a mistake is made when using a humane method, or the student wishes to change a variable, they can simply start the procedure again.
Professor Dewhurst’s work replaces several experiments and procedures in teaching. It is useful to look at these in order to appreciate the magnitude of this work and the unnecessary suffering caused by the experiments which this software seeks to replace.
The guinea pig ileum program simulates an isolated preparation of the guinea pig ileum. In the animal model, this is tissue that has been removed from the guinea pig prior to its death. The aim of this practical is to explore the effect of drugs and electrical stimulation on the release of, and response to, neurotransmitters in the nervous system in the intestine.
The computer simulation enables a range of drugs to be used, alone or in combination and over a range of doses. In addition the effects of electrical stimulation can be determined. A “magic” wash facility allows the model to be instantly cleaned of all prior traces of drugs, and further experiments to be conducted, thereby speeding up the learning process. This is not the case when using animal tissue.
Another programme is the “Langendorff Heart”. This is interactive and simulates experiments that may be performed on the isolated perfused mammalian heart. The program covers the effects of various different classes of drugs and the effect of ions. The simulated data are derived from actual experimental data.
An independent review of the Langendorff heart programme stated that “The handling of the program is easy and its appearance attractive…This resource is suitable for the total replacement of an animal lab, thus offering a solution to the difficulties involved in running the animal lab.”
In order to make these exciting alternatives to animal use available to students across the world many topics have been translated into languages including Chinese, Spanish, Ukrainian, Romanian and Lithuanian.