Life-saving research at new £16m centre at University of Leicester
Scientists working on revolutionary treatments for cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening conditions have welcomed the opening of a £16 million research centre at the University of Leicester.
The Central Research Facility is used by up to 200 staff working on 40 projects including experiments using rats and mice.
But the scientists say the new scanning techniques and other equipment housed in the three storey building will reduce the number of animals needed for essential research.
Professor Mike Barer, director of research in the school of medicine, biological sciences and psychology, said research based on animal studies in Leicester had been critical to several medical advances including major improvements in kidney transplantation leading to higher success rates and microwave-based treatment of tumours in the liver.
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He said: "More recently there have been breakthroughs in heart disease treatment that have improved the use of artery-widening stents and pioneering work on the implantation of devices that alleviate heart failure.
"Research in Leicester has also led to the establishment of facilities benefiting the nation as a whole. The life-saving Leicester ECMO unit, which effectively breathes for critically ill patients, and the Leicester bone bank are important examples."
The new 4,500 sq m building off Lancaster Road, which replaces laboratories from the mid-1970s, will house up to 25 staff at anyone time in a clinically clean environment.
People entering the building have to don sterile clothing and equipment taken into the building takes an hour to be sterilised.
Professor Barer said: "The facility provides an exceptional environment for both animals and investigators.
"Of particular note are the new facilities for imaging applied to animals so far fewer subjects will be required to achieve valid results.
"The University of Leicester is recognised nationally as a leading centre standing up for animal research for medical benefit conducted within a clear moral and ethical framework balancing consideration of humans and animals."
Dr Karen Brown has led research in the use of the spice turmeric in the fight against bowel cancer which continue in the new centre.
She said: "Some research on animals is essential, but the new imaging techniques will allow us to be more efficient and will reduce the need to euthanase the animals. The monitoring of tumours can be conducted on MRI scans."
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, who opened the centre, said: "The University of Leicester has a well-deserved, worldwide reputation for its pioneering research, which has been key to many life-saving medical advances.
"The opening of this new facility shows the university's continued commitment to breaking new ground.This is something that the whole city can take pride in."
Centre director Heather Sanders said: "This is an exciting day for medical research."
She said the new facilities provided a much better environment for the animals than the old buildings.
The Central Research Facility at the University of Leicester is part funded by the Wellcome Trust.