2018 proved to be an excellent annual meeting, with 446 delegates in attendance at our Birmingham venue. Delegates had opportunity to visit our Trade partners who had stands in the Exhibition Hall, LASA is thankful for their ongoing support and sponsorship at our events. This was the first year LASA organised a parallel session of Trade workshops, we hope to expand this more in future years.

The scientific sessions covered a wide range of topical issues which provided “too much choice” for delegates to choose from at times. Topics discussed ranged from the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement), anaesthesia updates from LAVA, a “look on the large size” organised by the Large Animal Research Network, the expanding field of research into aging and the importance of elderly animal models, “Hand in Glove”: the inextricable link between good science and improved animal welfare and the Education, Training and Ethics committee of LASA tackled “Integrity” in the context of Laboratory Animal Science. Workshop formats were also very popular and diverse including discussion on The Zebrafish Health and Welfare Glossary, which is an initiative highlighting the vital contribution to the development of husbandry and welfare infrastructures that support the growth and diversification of uses of this important model organism. The Institute of Animal Technology organised a workshop focussing on the consideration of adverse effects, humane endpoints and animal welfare when drafting PPL applications

We are very grateful to all our speakers, chairpersons and to everyone else for making the meeting such a success. It is also pleasing to see the continuing co-operation between LASA and other organisations in particular LAVA, IAT, UFAW, NC3Rs and RSPCA working together on the planning of both one-day meetings and AST2020.

PEL Holders’ Forum & Home Office Updates

The ASRU Leadership team provided an update of any recent changes within the Home Office and on subject areas such as Brexit, ASPeL, regulation, modernisation, consistency, responsiveness and compliance. Copies of the slides can be downloaded here.

The ASRU Leadership team very much believe that strong engagement with LASA is a key component of being a successful regulator. It provided a great opportunity to convey messages and get feedback. The sessions were very positive with good questions that had constructive feedback and critique.

Inaugural Keynote speaker

Dorothy V. M. Bishop – Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Oxford

Barriers to reproducibility and how to overcome them

Poor reproducibility in biomedical science has hit the headlines in recent years. Rather than documenting the problems, we need now to identify causes and solutions. Causes are multiple, and include use of small samples, flexible analytic pipelines, insufficient transparency about methods and data, and failure to understand statistics. In addition, psychology studies show that scientific reasoning is contrary to our natural ways of thinking, and we need to overcome cognitive biases. The problems are not, however, solely due to researchers. The incentive structures that arise from the procedures adopted by institutions, funders and publishers all conspire to discourage slow and careful science in favour of haste and hype. On the positive side, funders in particular are concerned not to waste their investments in science, and are already adopting new practices that should encourage scientists to work reproducibly without needing to fear this will damage their careers. Copies of her slides can be downloaded here.

Dorothy Bishop is a psychologist based at the University of Oxford, where she heads a programme of research funded by the European Research Council. She is a supernumerary fellow of St John’s College Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the British Academy and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Her main research interests are in the nature and causes of developmental language difficulties, with a particular focus on psycholinguistics, neurobiology and genetics. Her book Uncommon Understanding won the British Psychological Society’s annual award in 1999, and she has published widely on children’s language disorders. In 2015 Dorothy chaired a symposium on Reproducibility in Biomedical Science organised by the Academy of Medical Sciences, Wellcome Trust, MRC, and BBSRC. She has a popular blog, Bishopblog, which features posts on a wide range of topics, including those relevant to research reproducibility. She is also on Twitter as @deevybee.

Closing Keynote speaker

Professor Sian Harding Interim Head of the National Heart and Lung Institute

Stem cells and heart function – how to repair a broken heart?

What becomes of the broken hearted? Grief and heartbreak can be terrible, but does a ‘broken heart’ actually hurt our hearts? What can we do when we damage our heart from a heart attack? Delegates were able to attend the closing keynote speaker’s presentation for a fascinating look at how researchers learn more about the human heart and how we might be able to mend a broken one.

A heart attack causes sudden and irreversible death of a large portion of the heart – around 20-30% or 2 billion muscle cells (cardiomyocytes). Regeneration of the heart is poor, with only 1% of cardiomyocytes renewed each year. While the treatment of heart attacks has improved enormously, this has left more people with damaged hearts and, after some time, this often progresses to heart failure. The combination of better treatment and longer life has increased the number of people living with heart failure. We have progressed enormously with stem cell technologies for the heart: pluripotent stem cells can be produced from anyone’s skin cells. These stem cells can be turned into cardiomyocytes, and these made into sheets of beating engineered heart muscle. The logistical challenge of getting this to the damaged heart and the key roles of animal models will be discussed.

The use of this engineered heart tissue as a replacement for animal hearts will also be demonstrated, giving us a model which is: human; matched to the patient genetically; functionally active; long-lasting and suitable for automated platforms. This disease-in-a-dish 3D system is revolutionising cardiac science.

Professor Sian Harding is the interim Head of the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London and also the Head of the BHF Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Centre, Institute Lead for Women for Athena SWAN with NHLI, and the Cardiovascular theme lead for the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. She obtained her PhD in Pharmacology from King’s College, London, and since then the primary focus of her work has been cardiomyocyte function in the failing heart. The BHF Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Centre is making engineered heart tissue and pluripotent stem cells cardiomyocytes, to actually replace the damaged muscle and return the heart to the state it was in before the damage occurred.

Copies of her slides can be downloaded here.

FELASA: 40 years and beyond

FELASA Honorary Secretary

The Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations – FELASA – is composed of 21 member associations representing 27 countries. FELASA was established in 1978 to represent members’ common interests in the furtherance of all aspects of Laboratory Animal Science (LAS) in Europe and beyond. Laboratory animal science being that discipline whose objective is to ensure optimal conditions for the humane and appropriate use of animals in scientific purposes benefiting mankind and other animals. FELASA works towards improving those conditions. FELASA is also often referred to as a pole of information exchange between national, European, and international stakeholders including governmental bodies. FELASA’s network allows the reunion of LAS specialists to establish triennial conferences and working groups for recommendations on LAS, welfare, and education. Along the last 40 years, FELASA’s achievements have been manifold as it is highlighted by the numerous citations of FELASA scientific publications on topics like LAS training, ethics, and health monitoring. A new series of FELASA recommendations are under development, aiming to start tackling the challenges for the 40 years to come. Copies of the slides can be downloaded here.