03 December, 2018

4 key animal research insights from AALAS 2018

By Jennifer Brooks

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The 69th American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) National Meeting recently took place in Baltimore, Maryland.  A forum for those dedicated to the humane care and treatment of laboratory animals, delegates from the academic community, research institutions, government organizations and commercial companies came together to enjoy a series of scientific lectures, poster sessions and exhibits. Delegates also received the latest industry news and insights, including updates from regulatory agencies which we’ve summarized into key take home messages.








1. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s big news

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a US federal executive department. Also known as the Agriculture Department, USDA is responsible for developing and executing federal laws that relate to farming, forestry and food.

USDA told the delegates that they:

  • will require accurate inventories be provided at the time of inspections
  • now plan on taking photos


These photos would not be available through the Freedom of Information Act but they would be available on their internal tool for monitoring. 

In other big USDA news, they announced that:

  • it will be possible to complete online annual submissions and to get them confirmed
  • chapters two and six of the inspection guide have been updated
  • the update of chapter seven will be completed by December 2018 and posted


2. The latest from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW)

The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) oversees the use and care of research animals in the US Public Health Service (PHS)-funded research. The various agencies of the PHS form part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

OLAW provided details on the 21st Century Cures Act, and ICARE (a federally funded IACUC training project). The 21st Century Cures Act was passed in December 2016.  It requires compliance by this year for these federal agencies to work together to reduce the regulatory burden on medical advancements. 

They have been going through 19,000 responses to a Request for Information from the public on how to do this. They are also working with the USDA and FDA to help harmonize things like submission dates.

3. Rat tickling

Rat tickling is a way to affect a positive mental response in rodents. Rat tickling can help reduce rat anxiety, making them more responsive and easier to handle in laboratory environments.

This proved to be another worthwhile session. However, it does not seem to be something our industry can adopt as selling animals that may now have this new behavioral variable. It was though particularly interesting to hear that:

  • it seems to be a trait that has strain-specific responses
  • within those responses, there are high and low callers
  • these callers seem to be dependent or similar to the parent that raised them


4. Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician ALAT book has been republished

The AALAS Technician Certification Program provides a learning framework for learning, a source of self-confidence, and professional recognition for animal technicians. For those wishing to become an Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), the ALAT training book is a vital resource.

It was announced during the session that the ALAT book has been republished. This new edition covers everything you need to know about:

  • application and testing procedures
  • qualification criteria
  • exam fees
  • and many other topics

Thinking about taking the ALAT certification? Have the older version of the book? You'll need to complete your test within the next six months.

The AALAS Meeting was an interesting and thought-provoking event. Along with catching up on the very latest industry news, an awards ceremony also took place and well-deserved winners shared their stories about how vital animal research is and how they are contributing to positively impacting the world. It was great to see such pride being shown in our industry and the wonderful benefits to humankind now and in the future.

Didn’t get a chance to attend or would like to review some of the topics discussed again? Check out Envigo’s talks and poster sessions presented by our inspirational speakers.

Category // Research models and services, animal research