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The University of Southampton
Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body

Our commitment to the 3Rs at the University of Southampton

The 3Rs:

The University of Southampton is committed to the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) in all areas of research and teaching using animals. As a university we strive to replace animal research with alternatives wherever possible, reduce the number of animals used, and refine experiments, housing, and care to minimise harms and improve animal welfare. Our Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) plays a vital role in advising on, and promoting, the 3Rs.

The AWERB has appointed a team of researchers and technical staff as 3Rs champions, to raise awareness of the 3Rs and facilitate their further implementation across the university. This will include an annual 3Rs symposium where researchers will present and share 3Rs innovations. The champions will be involved in running an annual 3Rs award competition, open to everyone within the university. Applications for this competition are judged by AWERB on their overall scientific impact and advancement of the 3Rs.

Please find information below on each of the Rs and an overview of some of the research being conducted at the University of Southampton from our latest 3Rs award winners.


Replacement means "avoiding or replacing the use of animals in areas where they otherwise would have been used."

Further information on Replacement can be found here .

Our researchers aim to replace animals with alternative methods whenever possible.

Overview of the 2024 3Rs award winning project in the replacement category:

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is a type of skin cancer and is one of the most common cancers worldwide. When it spreads from the skin to other parts of the body (metastasises) treatment options are limited. An immune treatment (called anti-PD1 therapy) causes the body’s immune cells to attack the tumour. It is used in cSCC, but fewer than 1 in 7 people fully respond to it. We think that combining immunotherapies may increase their effectiveness, but we need better ways to understand how these treatments might interact. It is common to test such treatments in mouse models of cancers, but it is increasingly clear that the responses seen in mice to not always mirror those seen in humans. We have therefore developed a tissue slice culture system in cSCC. This allows us to take very thin slices of fresh patient cSCC samples and keep them alive for up to 5 days. Using this, we can measure how different treatments affect the immune response in cSCC to predict which treatments might prove effective in patients in the future. A significant advantage of this system is that it uses human samples. Not only does this provide a way of testing treatments without using animals, but it is likely to predict the treatment responses of patients better, as has been shown with similar systems in other cancers.

Overview of the 2023 3Rs award winning project in the replacement category:

Southampton researchers have developed a new 3-dimensional cell culture system to study how human breast cancer develops in patients who are overweight. Although cancer research has heavily relied on mouse models, there are limits to their applicability to human disease. In this new approach, researchers can investigate how different types of cells grow and interact with each other. This provides an appropriate model of the disease in humans.


Reduction means "minimising the number of animals used consistent with scientific aims."

Further information on Reduction can be found here .

Our researchers ensure that experiments are designed to use as few animals as possible to thoroughly answer the scientific questions being investigated.

Our animal facility staff regularly review our breeding programmes with the aim of minimising breeding of surplus animals.

Overview of the 2024 3Rs award winning project in the reduction category:

Representing the changes to airway structure and inflammation that occur during chronic lung disease, such as asthma, can be a challenge for new drug development and testing, which may require a large number of animals such as mice. Researchers at the University of Southampton have newly established in their laboratory the method of generating approximately 50 thin lung tissue slices from a single mouse lung, also called Precision Cut Lung Slices (PCLS). This method significantly reduces by up to 50-fold the number of mice needed for studying multiple novel drugs at different concentrations and time points, and their effect on complex changes in the airways of these lung slices. This technique can be applied to other animal tissues such as the liver and brain, and importantly to human tissue samples, which may further reduce the need for animals in drug testing.

Overview of the 2023 3Rs award winning project in the reduction category:

In an innovative project aimed at transforming approaches to drug discovery, Southampton researchers have used specialist analytical methods to gain more information from cell cultures that are used to replace animals. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS and imaging (MRI) to analyse tissue slices, or clusters of cells (organoids), has enabled these alternatives to be used for a wider range of tests, further reducing animal use. This allows an individual organ to be utilised for hundreds of assays including tests of metabolic activity and other complex cellular functions.  The innovation can also be used with human tissue biopsies, which may further reduce the reliance on animal tissue while providing data that are directly relevant for humans.


Refinement means "minimising the pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm that research animals might experience, and improving welfare."

Further information on Refinement can be found here .

We think about each animal’s whole lifetime experiences when implementing refinement, including not only experiments but also housing, husbandry and care.

Overview of the 2024 3Rs award winning project in the refinement category:

Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in children and adolescents, but survival rates haven’t improved greatly over the last few decades. New treatments for these cancer patients are needed but their development is hampered by the complexity of the disease and the environment in which it grows. In this research project, we aimed to generate a new 3-dimensional bone model of osteosarcoma allowing us to study the microenvironment, while also testing new drugs and strategies to improve patient outcomes. To do this, we put osteosarcoma cells, specialised bone marrow cells and macrophages (important immune cells) in a bone cylinder, which were then cultured on a chick embryo blood vessel membrane (blood vessels are integral to tumour development). Using X-rays and tissue markers we were able to assess any changes in the tumour model. Furthermore, an osteosarcoma drug, that may target macrophages, was added to this model to try and understand how this drug works and potentially how to make it work better. This project refined the use of animals in research by not using established mouse models, instead, we placed our model onto the rapidly expanding blood vessel membrane (also known as the CAM), which grows around the developing chick inside of the shell. Importantly, placing our bone cancer model structure onto the CAM (i.e., piggybacking the chick's growth and support networks) causes minimal impact to the chick embryo, which continues to develop normally.

Overview of the 2023 3Rs award winning project in the refinement category:

Southampton researchers have been recently investigating ways to optimise fish tagging and population estimate methods in environmental studies. Typically, fish are captured and marked using physical tags, causing discomfort, and potentially making it more difficult to swim. In this study, researchers explored the use of a less invasive approach to identifying individual fish. Using unique identifiable features such as spots or scales, together with remote underwater video capture from submersible cameras, the group was able to reliably identify individual fish and predict population size without physical capture. This could improve animal welfare whilst ensuring accurate and reproducible data collection.

Staff and researchers who look after animals are responsible for their care and welfare, though the Establishment Licence Holder has overall responsibility.

The continued promotion and implementation of the 3Rs principles is in the best interest of animal welfare, students, animal technicians, researchers, and science. We also recognise that the public expects us to conduct humane, responsible research, and to be open about our animal use.

Inaugural 3Rs conference and networking vvent at the University of Southampton

The inaugural 3Rs conference and networking event, held on 20th October 2023, brought together: researchers, technicians, and advocates from across the University of Southampton to share and promote the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the 3Rs) in animal research. With a focus on advancing ethical and sustainable practices in research, the event proved to be a platform for discussion, collaboration and innovative ideas.

The event featured a diverse array of presentations and workshops from speakers across many different research fields and external speakers that delved into various aspects of the 3Rs: covering topics on the development of cutting-edge in vitro models, implementing reduction strategies, and improving the welfare of animals in research. Attendees had the opportunity to learn from experts, share their own experiences and participate in thought-provoking discussions.

Overview of some of the featured talks:

Attendees were asked to carry and share the knowledge and connections they had gained from the event and implement them into their respective research fields. The success of this event has laid a strong foundation for future 3Rs conferences at the University of Southampton, fostering collaboration and innovation.

Quotes from some of our attendees:

“The talks were really informative, and I would definitely attend any other future events organised”.

“It was an excellent forum to know what 3Rs activities are going on at the University of Southampton”.

“A good range of talks covering all aspects of what the animals used in research at the University of Southampton are for and what is being done to improve on the way in which they are used”.

Links to more information on the 3Rs:

National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)

Understanding Animal Research (UAR) 3Rs Page

The 3Rs Collaborative

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