Questions about MS? Call us on 0808 800 8000
A gloved hand handles 3 containers of zebra fish.

Policy on use of animals in research

We're committed to finding new treatments that can help everyone with MS. It's the top priority set for us by people living with MS, and we’re determined to achieve it as quickly as possible. Funding animal research gives us the best chance of doing so.

Why we fund animal research

Funding research that uses animals is not a decision we have taken lightly. But at the moment there are no alternatives for many important studies.

Often it's only when we look at a complete living system that combines genes, body chemicals and environmental factors, that we can really see what effect a new treatment or procedure might have if it was used on a person.

This is unlikely to change in the near future, but we're actively supporting innovative alternatives that can reduce the number of animals used in research. For example, our researchers are now growing human stem cells in a dish for basic experiments. And the MS Society Tissue Bank helps researchers all around the world use donated post-mortem tissue when this is a suitable alternative.

How animal testing helps MS research

Research using animals is vital in advancing our understanding of MS. And it's been critical in the development of new treatments. Many current Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs) were only possible as a direct result of testing and experiments involving animals.

By law, new compounds must be shown to be safe and effective in animal studies before they can be tested in human clinical trials.

David Lyons - fishes

How animal research is regulated

All our research is reviewed by an independent ethical board, usually at a hospital or university. This is made up of both scientists and members of the public. Before any project can go ahead, the board must be persuaded that there is no suitable alternative to the use of animals.

All of the research we fund must comply with local laws and regulations. UK legislation is amongst the strictest in the world. It requires every institution, individual researcher and funded project to get a separate license from the Home Office before testing on animals is permitted.

As a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) we fully support their position statement on the use of animals in research. This means we expect all our researchers to follow the principle of the 3Rs of animal research:

  • Reduce the number of animals used to the minimum necessary for a valid result;
  • Refine experiments to minimise any pain, suffering or distress;
  • Replace animal experiments with alternatives wherever possible.

What animal experiments we fund

Our current projects use mice, rats and small fish. We do not fund any research that uses primates. We are signatories to the Concordat on Openness. This commits scientists to be open and honest about the ways in which animals are used in medical research.

Concordat Col small