Many diseases affecting humans can be found in the same or a similar form in animals. Dogs suffer from diabetes, rats can get hypertension, mice and rats may develop cancer and fall ill with virus infections.
One of the main aims of basic biological and medical research is to obtain an image as comprehensive as possible of the complex interactions within an organism. This is necessary in order to understand diseases and to develop appropriate drugs or treatment methods. In many cases a research project involving animals results in treatments that benefit both humans and animals. In fact, almost 90 percent of the drugs used for humans and domestic animals are identical.
Whenever possible, we use alternative animal-free research methods such as computer simulations or cell cultures in a petri dish to investigate processes in living cells. We only conduct experiments involving animals if all other methods are unsuitable for the scientific question addressed. The need for each and every animal experiment is always carefully considered.
Animal welfare is most important to all staff of our institute concerned with animal experiments: We are ethically obliged to animal welfare, best possible husbandry conditions, and responsible handling of animals. These are furthermore indispensable prerequisites for generating exploitable and reproducible scientific results.
3-R-Principle and a 4. R
All scientists working with laboratory animals at the institute are concerned about keeping the number of animal experiments and the stress experienced by the animals to a minimum. When planning and executing experiments, we apply the so-called 3-R-principle. 3-R stands for reduce, refine, replace: The number of animals per experiment is reduced to an absolute minimum; experiment performance and animal husbandry are refined to minimize stress for the animals; animal experiments are replaced by alternative methods whenever possible.
In addition, the researchers of the Max Planck Society commit themselves to a fourth 'R' for "responsibility". They want to use their knowledge in life sciences and humanities to promote animal welfare in their institutes.
The institute’s high quality standards with regard to animal husbandry and animal experiments are closely supervised by an animal welfare officer, an experienced expert veterinarian for laboratory animals, and confirmed by means of inspections by the Veterinary Office. Furthermore, in order to ensure that stress to the animals is kept to a minimum, the animal welfare officer advises the scientists on the planning and conducting of experiments that involve animals.
According to the new German Animal Welfare Act that came into force in 2013, an internal commission has been set up consisting of the animal welfare officer, scientists working with animals, technical assistants as well as animal care staff. This commission provides support to the animal welfare officer with the objective of accommodating all issues relating to animal welfare in an optimal way.
In Germany, animal experimental research is subject to strict regulations to an extent unmatched by hardly any other area of animal husbandry and use. Each experiment involving a vertebrate has to be approved and the authorities verify for each individual case whether the experiment is indispensable or whether scientific insights can be gained by other means. All animal experiments at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry have to be authorized by or registered at the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit) in Oldenburg.
Additionally, we also strictly comply with the Regulation on Animals Used in Experiments (Tierschutz-Versuchstier-Verordnung), which specifies in detail the work with laboratory animals. Representatives of the responsible authorities have access to the experimental facilities and the Animal Facility at all times.