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Shared Ageing Research Models (ShARM UK)

UK scientists studying the biology of ageing can access ShARM - a resource to share tissues and make the most of every mouse bred for ageing research, reducing the numbers of animals required and saving money.

Because the genes and tissues of mice are very similar to our own, mouse models are important tools in ageing research. But housing and looking after mice over the long period it takes for them to reach old age is costly, which has a knock-on effect on the development of new projects. Furthermore, scientists will only use one or two tissues from these animals, with surplus tissues often being discarded. This has economic, scientific and ethical shortcomings.

Not-for-profit organisation Shared Ageing Research Models (ShARM UK), which is funded by Wellcome trust and supported by the MRC, combines web-based information systems with a physical tissue bank. A network of ageing mouse colonies across the UK will be linked up via a bank of flash-frozen surplus tissues available to the research community, allowing scientists to see rapidly what kind of tissue is available for research, and when.

An online collaborative environment (MiCEPACE) will also be set up to help scientists share knowledge, experience on care and welfare of ageing mice.

Dr Mark Prescott, Head of Research Management and Communications at the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), said: “ShARM has the potential to contribute to reduction and refinement, as well as the speed and cost-effectiveness of research into ageing. Banking and sharing of tissues will help make maximum use of each animal. Plus the online network can be used to share information on best practice in the care, use and welfare of aged mice.”

ShARM was established by scientists from the MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing and MRC Harwell

For more information visit www.SHARMUK.org