How the University of Saskatchewan is reducing science’s impact on animal use

The University of Saskatchewan is in the vanguard of a growing movement to reduce animal use in Canadian university research.  

“Through our new live animal- and tissue-sharing program, we are proactively ensuring adherence to the three Rs of animal ethics in research—replace animals, reduce use, and refine care and procedures to minimize pain and distress,” said University Veterinarian Jane Alcorn. She is the co-author of a 2012 national report on live animal- and tissue-sharing.       

Thanks to funding from the federal Research Support Fund (formerly, Indirect Costs Program), University of Saskatchewan researchers will soon be able to consult an online database to obtain tissues from a variety of animal species or surplus live animals. The system will reduce the number of animals ordered, as well as the total number of animals used.  

“We’ve already reduced the use of rodents by at least 350 over the past year, just by encouraging researchers to contact facility managers when surplus animals or tissue are needed or available,” she said.  

Extra tissues are frozen, making them available for use in future studies.

“This approach enables us to maximize the use of each animal,” said Alcorn. 

For example, if one investigator intends to carry out a study on kidneys, other researchers may be able to make use of the liver, brain tissue, or other components of the same animals.   

The new sharing protocols are also expected to increase collaboration, provide quicker access to tissues for researchers, and reduce costs.

The Research Support Fund supports more than half of the University of Saskatchewan’s research ethics office’s operating costs, including those for ethics training across campus.  

“Without this funding, our animal care and regulatory compliance program would be in jeopardy and, ultimately, this could result in the university not being able to conduct research involving animals—which is so critical for improving both animal and human health,” said Alcorn.


Find out more about research being conducted at the University of Saskatchewan.


The Research Support Fund supports a portion of the costs associated with managing the research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, such as salaries for staff who provide administration support, training costs for workplace health and safety, maintenance of libraries and laboratories, and administrative costs associated with obtaining patents for inventions.