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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Robots in High-Risk Lab Animal Facilities

Estimates of animals used globally for experiments range from tens of millions to 100 million or more annually. Between 80 and 800 animals are now needed per drug. And there isn't universal agreement among scientists that ending testing on animals will ever be possible or should stop, considering the life-saving advances that have come from such studies.

Risky Cleaning Jobs
3M Corporation, St Paul, MN
Animal experiments mean millions of cages must be cleaned regularly, a historically manual task, exposing staff to contaminants, allergens and possible infections in the cage bedding material. Human workers had to wear belt-mounted powered air-purifying respirator (“PAPR”) systems to control aeroallergen exposure during cage cleaning operations.
Cleaning and Bedding Robots
In 1996 Swedish company Detach AB changed the view of cage cleaning and bedding management by introducing robotic handling to the Lab Animal Research (LAR) industry. According to research by the Swedish National Institute for Working Life and Safety Assessment (Arbetslivsinstitutet) investigating the Astra Zeneca, Gartuna plant in Sodertalje, Sweden., the use of robotics, could reduce staff exposure to allergens by up to 99%.
Today more than 70 robots handle cage washing and bedding processing at laboratory animal research facilities in USA and Europe. The Ymer Automated Cage CW and Bedding Processing System is state-of-the-art and capable of handling cages up to a number of 300 per hour. Jonas Magnusson, VP ABB Industries AB, is optimistic about automation of pharmaceutical and science and he thinks "the increase will be faster than other mature industries such as the car industry."


According to the Swedish Research Council seven in ten Swedes indicate that the use of animals in research is acceptable for medical research. Young people are more negative than older people.

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