Despite exceptional advances in computing and in vitro testing on human cells, animal testing remains a necessity for better understanding how to alleviate human suffering.
Biomedical research relies on the use of vertebrate in vivo models to address questions of biological, medical, environmental and biotechnology relevance. Internationally competitive research needs access to an experimental facility designed for performing a diverse array of in vivo experiments with model organisms.
The European Commission report for the year 2012 shows that mice (60.9%) and rats (13.9%) are by far the most commonly used species. More than 60% of animals were used for research and development in the fields of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and dentistry and in biological studies of fundamental nature. An increase in demand for in vivo (eco)toxicological testing is due to harmonization with relevant EU regulations.
Marine and environmental research also need an experimental facility designed for performing a diverse array of in vivo experiments with various model organisms. There is a lack of similar facilities, both nationally and in the Western Balkan region.
In response to the rapidly growing EU demand for use of small laboratory animals instead of traditional mammalian research models (mice, rat, rabbits, dogs, primates), and along with internationally standardized (eco)toxicological methods that can be routinely performed in the facility, special emphasis will be put on the establishment of the zebrafish functional genomics methodology. Zebrafish is a vertebrate model organism increasingly used both in biomedical and environmental research.
Small laboratory fish such as zebrafish (Danio rerio) are easy to breed in large numbers in a relatively small laboratory area, have a rapid reproductive cycle, are transparent during early development, and have a full genome sequenced. They also provide large scale screens for drug development and toxicological research. As a result, world-wide demand for fish as ideal experimental model organisms for vertebrate research has been growing fast. Zebrafish in particular have become an important alternative to mammals for laboratory research according to EU
Directives 1986/609/EC and 2010/63/EU. Finally, numerous protocols for toxicological tests on a large scale and molecular biological functional genomics tools are established and readily available for zebrafish (chemical mutagenesis, transgenesis, genetic knock-downs/outs/ins, microarrays).
The aquatic animal experimental facility will serve as a focal point for spreading its core activities in the region: coordinate existing research endeavours, stimulate new initiatives across and beyond biomedical fish research, and promote awareness and the use of fish as a research model.