Three Rs Microsite


Replacement Alternatives

C. elegans

Invertebrates such as C. elegans
are relative replacement alternatives.
Photo by Conny Lin,
Brain Research Centre, UBC
(click to enlarge)

Replacement alternatives refers to methods which avoid or replace the use of animals in an area where animals would otherwise have been used.

This includes both absolute replacements (i.e. replacing animals with inanimate systems, such as computer programs) and relative replacements (i.e. replacing more sentient animals such as vertebrates, with animals that current scientific peer advice and interpretation of scientific evidence indicate have a lower potential for pain perception, such as some invertebrates).

When animals are humanely killed to provide tissue (i.e. organs, cells, etc.) for in vitro experiments, it is often possible to obtain enough material to conduct a greater number of experiments from each animal than if whole animals were used for the study.

General Examples of Replacement Alternatives Using:

  • information already gained (for example by literature searches and systematic review)
  • physical and chemical analysis techniques
  • mathematical and computer models
  • in vitro systems
  • human volunteers and human-oriented post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological approaches
  • species with lower neuro-physiological development (relative replacement)

Challenges to Replacing Animals

Currently implementation of replacement is limited by the complexity of whole organisms. In addition, absolute replacement is currently not possible or desirable in some areas of research, for example in studies of:

This section has been adapted from the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME).

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