Using MRIs Calgary Scientists Aim to Reduce Use of Mice and Rats in Medical Research


The University of Calgary now has a small MRI to help minimize the number of rats and mice they have in their experiments. Using the small MRI, medical scientists at the university will test for different treatments for cancer, MS, and strokes.

The director of the school’s Experimental Imaging Centre, Jeff Dunn, stated that their small MRI is “one of the premier ones in Canada”.

Because only 500 grams will fit in the MRI, they will use rats and mice for their research, said Jeff Dunn:

“We use those in medical research obviously for preclinical assessment, how the disease progresses and possibly even more importantly if the treatment is functional.”

Reducing the Use of Animals in Research

The MRI has been used since 2004 and with a blood gas analyzer, scientists will only need blood samples from animals just as doctors take them from their patients. This way, they will not need to dissect their lab rats or mice, says Dunn:

“It really reduces the use of animals in research because, for a time-course study of treatment, we don’t have to do a whole bunch of animals. You can take a small number and follow them over months to see how the treatment is working.”

As any research facility that receives funds from the government, they follow the rules set by the Canadian Council on Animal Care. The Spokeswoman Sandra MacInnis from the Canadian Council on Animal Care stated in an email that they will only accept research that has already considered other options that don’t involve animal models. This way, Canadian researchers will use animals only when extremely necessary and they must take good care of the animals.

It’s Still an Ethical Issue

While using an MRI instead of dissecting a mouse sounds better, there are some complications. Elisabeth Ormandy has been a researcher and she admitted that to put a mouse under an MRI scanner, scientists must sedate the animal: “For people who care about that one individual mouse, that [MRI] might still not be OK.”

Ormandy said that some people argue that it’s better to cause more suffering to a mouse that just a little suffering to 10 mice.

Meanwhile, animal rights organizations state that with all computer modeling, there’s no need to use animals for testing.


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