By Rosanne Fohn
|Nakes mole rats have helped scientists better under the process of aging. Click on the photos to see a larger view|
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Calling the Department of Lab Animal Resource’s (DLAR)
procedures for caring for laboratory animals “exemplary,” the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) recently granted the UT Health Science Center San Antonio full reaccreditation.
“This is especially noteworthy because this is the first reaccreditation site visit since AAALAC revised and tightened its criteria for animal care in 2011,” said Sander Hacker, V.M.D., the university’s attending veterinarian and director of the DLAR, which oversees and manages all aspects of the animal care and use program at the Health Science Center.DLAR’s accomplishments
“The Council [on accreditation] commends you and the staff for providing and maintaining an exemplary program of laboratory animal care and use,” the AAALAC site visit report read. “Especially noteworthy were:
- the excellent state of sanitation throughout all the facilities;
- the dedicated staff, evidenced by the quality of care provided to the animals;
- the creative animal enclosures that provide structural enrichment for several species;
- the excellent biosecurity system;
- the very well developed process for identifying minor facility deficiencies; and
- the obvious team approach of the DLAR staff that serves the animals and the research well.”
One major challenge for the Health Science Center is having animals at four locations, including some located 250 miles away in the Rio Grande Valley. “This means we have four distinct animal care crews and our veterinarians and vet techs and supervisors travel to the four locations. Our four animal care crews stay in one location to look after the animals, so they are very familiar with them and would notice right away if there were any problems,” Dr. Hacker said.
Large team cares for animals
|Sander Hacker, V.M.D., attending veterinarian and director of the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources, led the effort for reaccreditation at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. |
“We have a very hardworking staff because we have to care for the animals 365 days a year – on weekends and holidays,” he said. Currently, there are 54 employees in DLAR:
- 5 veterinarians including Dr. Hacker;
- 4 veterinary technicians;
- 6 administrative staff members;
- 1 clinical laboratory technician;
- 1 manager of animal care;
- 5 animal care supervisors, in addition to the head veterinary technician; and
- 32 animal care technicians, who are responsible for daily animal care tasks.
“Typically, new treatments must be tested first in animals before they can proceed to humans,” said David S. Weiss, Ph.D., professor of physiology and neurology; the Dielmann Chair in Basic Biomedical Investigation; dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; and vice president for research at the Health Science Center. “That is why animal research is so critical, since it enables us to bring these new methods and treatments to the public.”
Among the animals cared for the DLAR are:
- Mice, which are used in aging, stroke, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular, infectious disease, vaccine development, cancer detection and treatment, Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) research;
- Rats, used in research for stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer detection and treatment, and glaucoma;
- Pigs, that are involved in research to develop new cardiac devices and heart-failure detection; and
- Nonhuman primates, to evaluate new treatments for premature infant disorders epilepsy, addiction and brain imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography (PET).