OHSU understands and fully embraces the responsibility to provide compassionate and state-of-the-art health and veterinary care that comes with the privilege of working with animals. We believe that knowledge gained through biomedical research in relevant animal models is essential to developing new ways to identify, prevent, treat or eradicate disease and to improve human and animal health. Our views on this topic reflect those of other academic health centers, universities, physicians and scientists throughout the world.
Research in animals has led to vaccines for polio, smallpox, mumps and measles; a vaccine platform for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and West Nile virus; new treatments for infertility, heart disease and diabetes; breakthroughs in Parkinson’s disease, blindness, stroke and depression. Through stem cell research, we have gained new insights that should transform our understanding of human health and biotechnology.
OHSU only allows animal studies when other nonanimal research methods, such as laboratory-based cell culture, simulation, gene chips or computer modeling are scientifically inadequate and/or when experimental designs are too dangerous for human participants.
Before OHSU conducts any research with animals, the research must be approved for scientific value and justification of need for animals and species by peer review. Only after a study is deemed to be of scientific value is it possible to request approval from the OHSU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). This rigorous review process evaluates factors such as details of the study design, steps taken in the study design to minimize pain and distress, and documentation of appropriate training of all study staff. Scientists also must demonstrate that the proposed study does not unnecessarily duplicate research previously conducted and must describe in detail the sources used to reach that conclusion.
Veterinarians specially trained to care for research animals participate in the review process. If the IACUC determines that animals are necessary to address a research question, OHSU ensures the study uses the fewest number of animals possible and emphasizes procedures that minimize discomfort and stress.
OHSU supports and adheres to the appropriately stringent Health Research Extension Act and Public Health Service Policy, the Animal Welfare Act, and Animal Welfare Regulations, with regular reviews (at least once yearly) and significant oversight provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Office for Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) of the National Institutes of Health.
To further ensure our programs are taking extra steps to achieve excellence in animal care and use, OHSU voluntarily participates in AAALAC International, a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs. OHSU has a long history of successful AAALAC reviews and accreditation, dating back to 1974.
OHSU investigates and proactively reports any serious adverse issues or incidents involving the animals in our care to OHSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), who ensure appropriate measures are taken to prevent recurrence. The IACUC also facilitates reporting any serious adverse issue or incidents to OLAW. OLAW’s Division of Compliance has highly trained veterinary staff thoroughly review the mitigation response in each case to determine whether it is complete and appropriate, thereby ensuring that we have done everything possible to minimize the possibility of recurrence.
At OHSU we employ hundreds of dedicated staff committed to providing humane, respectful treatment and the best possible veterinary care for every animal in our care. Animal care and housing are directed by licensed veterinarians who are Diplomates of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, a recognized specialty of distinction within the veterinary medical profession.
At OHSU, we provide a wide variety of opportunities for students and others to learn about our scientific research and our animal care programs. For example, scientists and animal care professionals speak with visitors to Oregon National Primate Center (ONPRC) at OHSU, serve as mentors for teachers and students, visit area classrooms, and interact with the public at special events on our campus and in the wider community.
Additionally, more than 4,000 people visit the ONPRC at OHSU each year, including elementary, middle school, and high school students; undergraduate and graduate student groups; civic groups and other organizations; and members of the general public. Tours are designed to accommodate the special interests of each group. Depending on group size and interest, tours may feature an interactive presentation about science methods and current center research projects, a visit to the outdoor corrals to observe the center's rhesus and Japanese macaque breeding colonies, scientists discussing their research, and/or a tour of some labs.
OHSU looks forward to a time when nonanimal research methods are capable of faithfully modeling the complexity of a living system; however, we are many years away from realizing that goal. The global scientific community doesn’t completely understand how a single cell works, and nonanimal research methods currently are incapable of interpreting it in any detail.
OHSU continually monitors and evaluates new methods and technology as alternatives to animal studies in our programs, and is committed to adopting these techniques as soon as their effectiveness is demonstrated.
Following are examples of OHSU/Oregon National Primate Research Center contributions to health and science:
- A compound that successfully promotes the rebuilding of the protective sheath around nerve cells that is damaged in conditions such as multiple sclerosis
- Identification of a gene that could provide a new target for developing medication to prevent and treat alcoholism
- New methods of vaccine development for HIV, tuberculosis, West Nile Virus and other infectious diseases
- Treatment for an infection that can result in chronic lung ailments and brain injury in pre-term infants
- Understanding of the effects of aging on neurological immunological and reproductive functions (and how these are related)
- A method of protecting fertility in people who receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy as treatment for disease
- A safer contraception method
- Improved understanding of brain injury and repair
- Improved baby formula to promote healthy eye development in newborns
- Gene therapy for people who are carriers of mitochondrial defects
- A method for accessing embryonic stem cells without the destruction of the fertilized egg
- Treatments for infertility
- Clinical trials using vitamin C to protect against lung damage in infants whose mothers smoke during pregnancy
- Identifying the effects of consuming a high-fat diet during pregnancy has on the development of obesity and/or Type II diabetes in the next generation