My visit to see the animal units at Manchester university
This was the first time since joining Datesand that I’d been able to look around a facility to see for myself how the animals are cared for and just how our bedding enrichment products are used to improve their health and well-being. Luckily, we had the Director Graham as our very knowledgeable guide. Graham told us they currently have around 85 projects running, looking into things from cancer research to global warming. We were able to see a lot of different animals and just how the bedding and enrichment we provide is used.
We were told about the care of the animals and how the team use the 3Rs to keep the animal testing to a minimum. As an example, for certain tests, microbes in a petri dish can be used as an alternative to live animals. Graham also explained that if they can re-home the animals after testing, they attempt to do so, or make sure that if animals have to be euthanised, the organs are used to help in other studies. He also mentioned that the unit’s older ewes nearing the end of their life are saved and that donated pacemakers are used to test their hearts.
We were taken to look at animals I’d expected to see, such as rats and mice and the growing population of zebrafish. We also saw other animals like the African striped mice currently used for optical tests and terrapins, born with a lack of oxygen, helping researchers see how people’s hearts fare at lower oxygen levels such as at high attitude. We heard of studies using microcultures to help people in the developing world with water supplies and how dogfish are helping in research into global warming and its effects on sea life. Graham also explained how researchers are testing to see how the body’s internal clock changes the way the body heals. This has implications for things like the lighting environment used when patients are being prepared for surgery.
It was very clear that the team go to a great deal of trouble to develop and maintain inventive and caring methods to help both animals and technicians. The units purify their own water into pouches to avoid repetitive strain injuries sometimes associated with cleaning bottles and use up to 40% less water into the bargain. The team had also noticed that when cleaning out the pigs, the animals rolled around in the run-off water. It seemed only right to provide them with a pool to swim and play around in. There’s even a project to exercise different birds to see how it affects the heart.
As someone who mainly processes the orders and looks first and foremost at accuracy, the right products, quantities and prices, it was really useful and interesting to see the animals themselves and to understand their needs and the environment they inhabit. It also gave me a real understanding of the number of enrichment items used and amounts of bedding ordered in real terms as I saw for myself what’s needed to fill so many cages and what lasts them a week.