Areas we study

The types of animal research carried out at the university range from:

1. Fundamental biology

Fundamental biological and medical research helps us to identify key physiological mechanisms that control how our bodies work, effect health and disease and that could lead to medical breakthroughs in the future

2. Veterinary

To identify and develop ways of assessing welfare in order to influence standards of care in farms and improve care of sick animals, such as developing better pain relief in pet dogs with arthritis.

3. Translational

To develop better treatments for sick people or animals, such as implanting and testing new medical devices in farm species.

The types of studies our animals may be involved in include blood tests, behavioural studies and imaging. Other studies might involve surgery to implant monitoring devices that measure changes in the body, or new medical devices that could help save human lives.

Animals used in research

In 2016, the University used 26,990 animals in research regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. The vast majority of these were rodents (63%) and fish (33%).

SpeciesNumber PercentageUse
Mouse  13,472 63% Rodents play a vital role in helping us to answer a wide range of questions, including understanding fundamental aspects of our physiology, our genetic pathways and the mechanisms of disease that support the development of future medicines and treatments for both humans and animals.
Rat  3,462
Zebrafish  8,964 33% Zebrafish allow us to model the effects of cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoarthritis as well as to study the genetic changes that can contribute to these debilitating diseases. They are incredibly good at regenerating cells, tissues and organs, something that we cannot do. By studying how they are able to do this we hope to find better ways of treating people in the future.
Bat  323 1.2% We study bats to assist with their conservation. Understanding their genetics could help us work out how we can protect them from the effects of global warming.
Chicken  190 0.7% Chickens are studied in Bristol to develop better measures of animal welfare.  The animals’ own preferences and choices can provide evidence about their wellbeing that can then be used to assess their care on farms and other establishments.
Goat  108 0.5% Our researchers have studied young livestock on farms to identify and develop new ways to improve their welfare and farm practices in the future.
Sheep  39
Rabbit  124 0.5% Our researchers study important tissues from rabbits that have been carefully euthanised to investigate aspects of physiology that are key to improving patient treatment.
Xenopus  112 0.4% Our researchers use tadpoles bred from Xenopus laevis (African clawed toads) to support studies relevant to human disease, such as Parkinson’s.
Pig  101 0.4% Pigs can help us develop new treatments and devices to benefit both human and animal health. They are also used in studies of infectious disease to develop new vaccines for humans and better medicines for farm species in the future.
Dog  94 0.3% Client-owned pets take part in studies at Bristol to help improve treatments for pets. This includes studies aimed at better understanding the causes of pain in dogs with naturally occurring arthritis.
Cat  1  0.004% Cats are important for the study of some areas of neuroscience, which in the future could support the development of rehabilitation methods for patients with movement disabilities (e.g. those who have suffered a stroke).


Facts about animal research

  • All animal research in the UK is regulated and inspected by the Home Office.
  • It is illegal in the UK and Europe to use animals in research if an alternative approach is available.
  • It is illegal in the UK and Europe to use animals to test cosmetics or their ingredients.
  • It is a legal requirement that all potential new medicines intended for human use are tested in two species of mammal before they are given to human volunteers in clinical trials.
  • The law states that all potential veterinary medicines must be safely tested in animals.
Image credit: University of Bristol
Image credit: University of Bristol
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