Dewhurst D. Is it possible to meet the learning objectives of undergraduate pharmacology classes with non-animal models? AATEX 2008l 14(Spl Issue): 207-12.
Animal use for education and training in university teaching is small compared to that for research but it is still significant, and often unnecessary for many students. Pharmacology is the discipline which uses most animals. A wide range of 'proven' non-animal models already exist and there is good evidence that they can be both educationally and cost effective. To further reduce animal use in education it is important to convince and persuade faculty who are the curriculum 'change agents' and efforts should be directed towards this through awareness raising, publishing evidence of successful use of non-animal methods in other universities, providing assistance with integration of alternatives into mainstream teaching, and developing new technological approaches to creating the resources which enable faculty to modify content and educational approach and avoid technological redundancy.
Laboratory-based practical classes, in which students conduct experiments on animals or animal tissue, are a central feature of bio/medical degree courses in most countries. Computer-based learning programs, which simulate such experiments, offer a virtual laboratory experience which may meet the great majority of the learning objectives for most students. Faculty need to be made more aware of the possibilities that alternatives afford, and they need to be convinced of the their viability. They also frequently express the desire to be able to modify the computer programs to meet local educational needs and this is something that developers of alternatives need to take into consideration. There is now significant evidence that alternatives are able to meet many of the learning objectives though generic and specific laboratory and surgical skills cannot be adequately taught in this way.