Share and Care!

(January 26th, 2017) Do you have some leftover material from your animal experiments? Why not share it? A new database brings givers and takers closer together.

Publishing a commentary in PLoS Biology, scientists in the UK announce the new Sharing Experimental Animal Resources, Coordinating Holdings (SEARCH) framework. This framework is designed to encourage scientists to share remaining material from animal studies with the research community. “We know that several animals are needed to produce reliable results. But in general only a fraction of each tissue sample is required to perform an experiment. Scientists typically store the rest of the material away which is often never re-visited,” Valerie Speirs, one of the scientists involved with the project, said.

An earlier survey among 100 biomedical researchers in the UK had revealed that 70% of them stored surplus material and 95% would be more than happy to share it. The advantages are obvious: sharing leftover material will lead to new collaborations and an increase in research output. In addition, the scientists, using the ready-to-use material and the expertise coming with it, will save time and money, and, which is the project's ultimate goal, the number of lab animals will be reduced.

As a first step, the project's team developed the SEARCHBreast database, which lists mouse tissues, relevant in breast cancer research. It is run by the University of Leeds and supported by the Barts Cancer Institute, the University of Sheffield and the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute. “SEARCHBreast is free and open to all biomedical researchers who register. Through a secure database, researchers can enter information about material they have available to share and search for available materials”, Speirs shared with The Scientist. “The database currently includes thousands of ready-to-use tissue samples, including formalin- fixed paraffin-embedded tissue blocks, cells, and histological slides from a range of different animal models, including genetically engineered mouse models and patient-derived xenografts”, she added. Until October, more than 220 scientists from Europe, the USA and Australia had already signed up.

Now, the project is set to expand. “We have shown this concept works for breast cancer and our research shows a desire from scientists in other disciplines to adopt SEARCH in their own field”, Speirs said. “It is our hope that the collaborative approach SEARCH offers will lead to a cultural change in the design and delivery of biomedical research going forward“.


Photo: Di Nucci

Last Changes: 02.21.2017