November 2019 proved to be another showcase scientific annual meeting, with 434 delegates in attendance at our Birmingham venue. To demonstrate our continued commitment to Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, 37 local sixth form college students attended presentations on the final day of the annual meeting, to signal LASA’s support for the principles of openness and transparency. Delegates also 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. Scientific poster submissions total 23 for the annual meeting – the prize of £500 to attend a further scientific meeting with the winning poster was kindly sponsored by Envigo

The ASRU Leadership team provided an update of recent changes within the Home Office and provided an overview on subject areas such as ASPeL, regulation, themed inspections, consistency, responsiveness and compliance. The afternoon session of the opening day, included a series of guest presentations covering a variety of subjects including Sentience, changing attitudes towards animal welfare in the laboratory animal science sector from 1940s to the current day and an overview of the work of the Animal Welfare Research Network (AWRN).The scientific sessions covered a wide range of contemporary issues. Topics discussed ranged from the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement), exploring new ways of assessing the welfare of research animals from LAVA to “Snippets of science: let’s learn more about science”, which consisted of a series of diverse presentations delivered by experienced specialist researchers covering current issues in biomedical research.

The LASA Animal Science Section – Transgenic Group organised a full day technical forum focusing on the CRISPR approach to making transgenics. Starting with a history of the generation of genetically altered models, the day was organised into 3 sessions, each opening with an expert speaker before a series of short presentations from practitioners on hot topics and refinements in the field. The 3 sessions covered advances in CRISPR design, CRISPR delivery methods and Quirks of Genotyping: allele verification and founder characterisation before closing with a presentation on the ethics & challenges of breeding CRISPR founders.  LASA’s Education, Training and Ethics Section’s workshop addressed how we might change people’s behaviour in the often debated area of experimental design, as well as more generally, drawing on examples from individuals involved in biomedical sciences, statistics and health psychology.

LASA’s Care and Welfare Section & RSPCA: Does Care and Welfare matter? Session covered potential conflicts between researchers wanting to “do things the way they’ve always been done” and the more “enlightened” who want to introduce welfare refinements, and how to resolve these challenges? There were various presentations on innovative approaches with significant impact on animal welfare, such as experimental refinement, followed by a round table discussion on challenges for the discovery and implementation of such refinements. In a nod to “James Herriot fans”, a session entitled “All creatures large and not so large”, includedtopics such as: equine herd management, challenges associated with translational research studying farm animal models and 3Rs considerations involving amphibians.

Finally, in this jam packed scientific programme, The Institute of Animal Technology delivered a workshop focussing on the Preparation, delivery and assessment for training in the workplace.

We are very grateful to all our LASA Section convenors, speakers, chairpersons and to everyone else for making the meeting such a success. We look forward to seeing everyone at LASA’s one-day meetings in 2020 and AST2020. In 2020 this will replace IAT Congress, the LAVA meeting and the LASA Annual Conference and it will be the only UK Laboratory Animal Science conference to attend in 2020. Don’t miss out! Register now for the Animal Science and Technology Conference (AST2020) between 24th and 26th March 2020:

Inaugural Keynote speaker

Professor Elizabeth Fisher- Professor of Neurogenetics at the Institute of Neurology in Queen Square, University College London (UCL) – ‘Humanising’ mouse models to understand neurodegeneration

Different types of mouse model, including transgenic, gene targeted, chemically-mutagenised, can give insight into human disease mechanisms.  Here we consider different types of model and review recent results, including in the use of ‘humanised’ mice in which either DNA or entire cellular systems are derived from humans.  Motor neuron disease/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other forms of neurodegeneration are discussed, along with some of the difficulties of translating from mouse to human.

We have worked with laboratory mice for over a hundred years to understand human disease.  Here, we briefly touch on why we work with mice in the first place, how closely mice and humans are related and what are the differences that affect our ability to model disease, such as species specific differences in splicing, gene numbers and even gene content.

 Over the years, we have developed many different types of mouse model and we look at the advantages some models have over others for different types of research, and then at newer technologies such as BAC recombineering for creating mouse models of disease, and in particular neurodegeneration.  Now that we can move quite large pieces of DNA between genomes, we are replacing some mouse genes with human genes to try to create more accurate models of disease, and to express genes at physiological levels.

We also look at the issue of translating from mouse to human, particularly in the field of neurodegeneration.  There is a lot of mythology about mouse models in this field, and we aim to dispel some of the myths about mouse preclinical trials. 

Finally, we look at what it is to be human, and the effects of our genes, environment, ageing and luck.  We are a highly variable species and variation contributes to disease.  Mice can be every bit as variable as humans and we need to work out how to harness this variation to understand what it is to be human, or mouse.  The future of pinning down human variation via mouse studies will lead to new therapies.  The mouse remains and enormously powerful system from which to understand human biology and pathology.

Professor Fisher, can be heard talking on BBC Radio 4 “The Life Scientific” about why it took 13 years to introduce human chromosome into mice, here

A copy of her slides can be downloaded here.

Elizabeth Fisher is Professor of Neurogenetics at the Institute of Neurology in Queen Square, University College London (UCL).  She has an undergraduate degree from Oxford (1981), and a PhD from Imperial College London (1986), working in the labs of Steve Brown and Mary Lyon (MRC Harwell). After a postdoc with David Page at the Whitehead Institute, MIT she returned to Imperial 1990 and moved to UCL in 2001.  Her lab focuses on making and analysing mouse models of neurodegeneration, including a novel humanised model of Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and models of Charcot Marie Tooth disease, dynein dysfunction as well as SOD1, FUS and TDP-43 models of motor neuron disease. She is a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator (held jointly with Victor Tybulewicz of the Francis Crick Institute), a member of EMBO and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Closing Keynote speaker

Professor Michael R F Lee, University of Bristol & Rothamsted Research – Agricultural sustainability metrics based on land required for production of essential human nutrients

Agricultural land and food security are coming under great pressure from climate change, rapidly increasing human population, urbanisation, demand for biofuels, and demand for animal protein. This situation led us to re-assess the role of ruminant livestock in delivering key nutrients, especially in the broader context of global warming potential and land use change. To date, several studies have examined environmental consequences of different food consumption patterns at the diet level; however, few have addressed nutritional variations of a single commodity attributable to on-farm strategies, leaving limited insight into how agricultural production can be improved to better balance environment and human nutrition.

Professor Lee discussed his work at Rothamsted Research and recent results showed that the relative rankings of the livestock products dramatically altered between two metrics i) global warming potential (GWP) per nutrient provision; and ii) arable land use (ALU) per nutrient provision, with monogastric systems preferred under global warming potential (poultry < pigs < cattle < sheep) and ruminant systems preferred under arable land use (sheep < cattle < pigs < poultry). The trade-off between the two metrics suggests that the globally optimal composition of livestock species is likely to be a mixture of monogastric and ruminant animals and, therefore, for livestock systems to contribute to global food security, multiple aspects of agricultural sustainability should be carefully and simultaneously considered. Professor Lee was a very lively and entertaining speaker and an interview with further discussion on this topic, can be heard on line here.

Professor Michael R F Lee, Ruminant Nutritionist, graduated with first class honours in Animal Science from University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1997 and gained a PhD in ruminant nutrition from the University of Aberdeen in 2001 followed by Post graduate certificate for teaching in higher education from Aberystwyth University in 2012. He worked for the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research from 2001-2008, before the merger with Aberystwyth University where he stayed as a Principle Scientist and Senior Lecturer in animal nutrition and rumen biochemistry until moving to the University of Bristol, School of Veterinary Science in 2013 as a Reader in Sustainable Livestock Systems. In 2015 he took a joint appointment between Rothamsted Research and the University of Bristol as Head of Site at North Wyke and was promoted to Chair in Sustainable Livestock Systems later that same year. His research focuses on the sustainability of livestock as a part of food security globally. He has published over 200 research articles and papers including recent articles in Nature and Science. He was awarded the Sir John Hammond Memorial Prize in 2015 for services to Animal Science and has represented the British Society of Animal Science on Presidents Council 2011-2016. In August 2016, he was elected as Vice President of the European Federation of Animal Science Livestock Farming Systems Commission and in April 2018 he was elected as Vice President of the British Society of Animal Science.