Under the shadow of old Table Mountain stands South Africa’s oldest university – The University of Cape Town. Within the University's prestigious Faculty of Health Sciences - considered one of the best faculties for medical research in the world - lies the Research Animal Facility (RAF), a department dedicated to supplying quality animal related procedure training, research animals and veterinary and para-veterinary technical assistance to researchers in various fields.  Working with animals in research is a privilege which should not be taken for granted or squandered. In order to ensure top quality research, the RAF supports and recommends the three R’s of research: Replace, Reduce, and Refine. These principles promote the replacement of animals with alternate models, reduction of the number of animals used in research, and refinement of protocols to ensure the animals’ welfare is considered during experiments in order to eliminate unnecessary suffering.

Striving to “practice what they preach”, the cryopreservation program was initiated. The aim of the program is to replace the mouse strains available to order as live mice with cryopreserved gametes instead. This is done by freezing embryos and sperm from the different mouse strains using a Planer Kryo 10 Series III controlled rate freezer. At an amazing 19 years+ of age this machine is almost as old as Table Mountain! The Planer has proven to be durable, dependable and downright dogged - attesting to the longevity of the product, which is serviced locally. Once frozen, the mouse sperm and embryos can be stored in liquid nitrogen indefinitely. This ensures that the valuable mouse strains are not bred when not in use nor lost when research comes to an end and can be re-derived (recreated) if a new research protocol begins. So while some ideas are put on ice, the Research Animal Facility’s dedication to excellent animal welfare and quality research provides the opportunity for those ideas to be thawed out and reborn in the future.

Pictured here: Embryologist, Ms Kerith Coulson, using a Planer Kryo 10 controlled rate freezer to cryopreserve mouse embryos.

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University of Cape Town

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