Researchers Explore Ways to Reduce Animals Killed in Environmental Testing

Scientists at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory recently reported on a new toxicology study that might reduce the number of animals killed to test how much of an environmental contaminant remains in animals living in environments where the contaminant is present.

Traditionally animals are captured, killed and then tested for contaminant levels. University of Georgia researchers Brian Jackson, William Hopkins, and Jennifer Baionno are working on an alternative that involves using a laser to take small samples from the tails of animals rather than killing the animal.

They took a group of banded water snakes, and fed two groups of snakes contaminated fish (they also used a control group that was fed non-contaminated fished). The researchers then used the laser technique on one of the groups of snakes and the traditional method on the other group of snakes, and then compared the resulting data.

The similarity was close enough that they concluded that,

Taken together, the findings from this study suggest that laser ablation of micro-dissected tissue shows promise as a non-destructive technique for conservation-minded exo-toxicological studies.


UGA scientists test less lethal means to determine contaminant uptake. Press Release, University of Georgia, July 21, 2003.

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