Section of Comparative Medicine
Section of Comparative Medicine (AKM) is the core facility and resource for experimental animal research conducted at the Faculty of Health Sciences.
AKM supervises and regulates good animal welfare and provides ethical guidelines for the use of animals in medical research. We contribute to reproducible and reliable animal studies, while working in a safe environment.
The novel AKM building is equipped with up-to-date zebrafish facilities.
Zebrafish is a well-known model system for early vertebrate embryo development, and its overall sequence similarity with humans and conserved catalytic sites and functions for proteins involved in e.g drug metabolism, signaling pathways and transcriptional regulation, makes it suitable as a model in the medical field, to study human diseases (1) as well in animal physiology and aquatic toxicology. There are several advantages using zebrafish as a model system: it is a small and robust fish, the generation time is short, the number of offsprings are high per mating, and fertilization is external so live embryos are accessible to manipulation and can be monitored through all developmental stages. In addition, advanced molecular techniques can be used to manipulate the genome and make transgenic fish (2) or isogenic (clonal) lines (3). Advanced methods and equipment make it possible to perform various molecular analyses as well as studying e.g behavior, and last but not least the space and costs required compared to other model systems are small. Several zebrafish models for human diseases exists, and especially interesting for research at the Faculty of Health Sciences could be mentioned zf models for cardiovascular disease (4), autophagy (5), metabolism (6), cancer (7), neuroscience (8), drug screening and drug development (9). For research done at the Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics it is relevant to mention that zebrafish provides a range of well-developed molecular genetic techniques which are not available for other ecologically and commercially relevant fish species by facilitating some in-depth analyses using a powerful and versatile fish model. This could allow studying different genetic, immunological and physiological processes like genetic mapping and identification of quantitative trait loci (3), and testing of bioactive compounds with therapeutic potential (10). Within aquatic toxicology, the model is used among others to determine the mechanisms of toxicity of contaminants (11), generate toxicity data for regulatory ecotoxicology based on standardized tests (12) and allows to study epigenetic inheritance through multi- and trans-generational experiments (13).
In Norway zebrafish research is conducted at the Zebrafish core facility at NCMM in Oslo, the Norwegian Zebrafish Platform at NMBU in Ås, the Zebrafish facility at the University of Bergen, the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at NTNU and at the Nord University in Bodø.
1. Choi TY, Choi TI, Lee YR, Choe SK, Kim CH. Zebrafish as an animal model for biomedical research. Exp Mol Med. 2021 Mar;53(3):310-317.
2. Choe CP, Choi SY, Kee Y, Kim MJ, Kim SH, Lee Y, Park HC, Ro H. Transgenic fluorescent zebrafish lines that have revolutionized biomedical research. Lab Anim Res. 2021 Sep 8;37(1):26.
3. Mizgirev I & Revskoy S. Generation of clonal zebrafish lines and transplantable hepatic tumors. Nat Protoc. 2010 Feb; 5(3): 383-394.
4. Hu B, Lelek S, Spanjaard B, El-Sammak H, Simões MG, Mintcheva J, Aliee H, Schäfer R, Meyer AM, Theis F, Stainier DYR, Panáková D, Junker JP. Origin and function of activated fibroblast states during zebrafish heart regeneration. Nat Genet. 2022 Aug;54(8):1227-1237.
5. Zhou C, Liang Y, Zhou L, Yan Y, Liu N, Zhang R, Huang Y, Wang M, Tang Y, Ali DW, Wang Y, Michalak M, Chen XZ, Tang J. TSPAN1 promotes autophagy flux and mediates cooperation between WNT-CTNNB1 signaling and autophagy via the MIR454-FAM83A-TSPAN1 axis in pancreatic cancer. Autophagy. 2021 Oct;17(10):3175-3195.
6. Banerji R, Huynh C, Figueroa F, Dinday MT, Baraban SC, Patel M. Enhancing glucose metabolism via gluconeogenesis is therapeutic in a zebrafish model of Dravet syndrome. Brain Commun. 2021 Jan 25;3(1)
7. Wang Q, Wang W, Pan W, Lv X, Zhang L, Zheng K, Tian F, Xu C. Case Report: Two Patients With EGFR Exon 20 Insertion Mutanted Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Precision Treatment Using Patient-Derived Xenografts in Zebrafish Embryos. Front Oncol. 2022 Jul 20;12:884798.
8. Ochenkowska K, Herold A, Samarut É. Zebrafish Is a Powerful Tool for Precision Medicine Approaches to Neurological Disorders. Front Mol Neurosci. 2022 Jul 6;15:944693.
9. Patton EE, Zon LI, Langenau DM. Zebrafish disease models in drug discovery: from preclinical modelling to clinical trials. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2021 Aug;20(8):611-628.
10. Hoeksma, J., Misset, T., Wever, C. et al. A new perspective on fungal metabolites: identification of bioactive compounds from fungi using zebrafish embryogenesis as read-out. Sci Rep. 2019 Nov; 9: 17546. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-54127- 9
11. Lee Y-L, Shih Y-S, Chen Z-Y, Cheng F-Y, Lu J-Y, Wu Y-H, Wang Y-J. 2022. Toxic Effects and Mechanisms of Silver and Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles on Zebrafish Embryos in Aquatic Ecosystems. Nanomaterials-basel 12(4): 717. doi: 10.3390/nano12040717
12. Krzykwa JC, Saeid A, Jeffries MKS. 2019. Identifying sublethal endpoints for evaluating neurotoxic compounds utilizing the fish embryo toxicity test. Ecotox Environ Safe 170: 521–529. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.11.118
13. Bautista NM, Crespel A, Crossley J, Padilla P, Burggren W. 2020. Parental transgenerational epigenetic inheritance related to dietary crude oil exposure in Danio rerio. J Exp Biol 223(16): jeb222224. doi: 10.1242/jeb.222224
New facilities have been built at the Section of comparative medicine (AKM) where it is possible to conduct projects and research based on infectious disease models. The unit has professional laboratories and housing facilities for rodents (mice, rats) both wildtype and transgenic and are classified biosafety level 2.
Biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) covers all laboratories working with agents associated with human disease that poses a moderate health hazard. Examples of research conducted at AKM are work with human and mouse cytomegalovirus and the unit have potential for supporting many more future projects.
Additionally, the unit can be used as a quarantine station when receiving animals from non-commercial suppliers as these animals are not considered specific pathogen free animals (SPF).
Anyone who will perform experiments with animals needs permission from the authorities. A prerequisite is to have completed a C-course in animal experimental science. You will have to apply for each planned animal experiment.
The application should be send electronically in the system FOTS
Please contact UCM's leader in order to obtain a username and password. Applications should be submitted well in advance before the scheduled start of the experiment.
For more information see Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet)
Direct login to FOTS
Our Unit of Comparative Medicine (AKM) shall be a safe workplace for staff, researchers and students. This is achieved through systematic and continuous focus on HES, by using written procedures and employing standard operating routines. However, in order to have a safe workplace everyone must contribute!
Those who will work at AKM will be exposed to health risks like allergens and chemicals. All methods and procedures have to be risk assessed before the work can start. As an employee or user of AKM you will have to follow many rules and requirements. It is important that all personnel are aware and competent in how to protect against any potential risk to health or the environment.
On this page you will find information and guidelines regarding Health, Environment and Safety at AKM.
Before you can start working at AKM
Health monitoring program for those who will work with laboratory animals
The Faculty of Health Science offers and recommends that all users that work with fur-bearing laboratory animals enrol in the health monitoring program. The health monitoring program is for all staff and students at UiT and is performed by the occupational health service centre HEMIS free of costs.
You find more information on the health monitoring program here.
According to Norwegian law all enterprises have to survey possible risks at the workplace. All activities performed by staff, users and research groups have to be assessed with regard to potential risks.
Before starting any new experiment the project leader will have to sign and deliver a risk identification form where all methods, substances and procedures that will be used should be described and characterized with regard to potential risks. This risk identification form can be found here.
A complete risk assessment will have to be performed if the risk identification shows that you will apply methods, procedures, substances, etc. that may pose a potential threat to human or animal health or to the environment (see below).
If the risk identification shows that potential health or environmental hazardous substances, methods or procedures will be used during the work at AKM, a dedicated and complete risk assessment will have to be performed and delivered to AKM. It is the project leader of the experiment that is responsible to make sure that such risk assessments are carried out. AKM demands to have a copy of the risk assessment before the experiment can start. It is also the project leader´s responsibility to ensure that all participants in the experiment (e.g. co-workers, students, cleaners, staff at AKM, etc.) are informed about the potential risks and that they all receive the necessary training and information regarding protective measures.
Institutional unitization agreement regarding HES
If you are a user from another institution than UiT, be aware that a unitization agreement (contract) regarding HES has to be signed between your institution and AKM before the experiment can start. You will find a template (only in Norwegian) for such a HES unitization agreement with AKM here.
Health risks at AKM
It is important to be aware of the potential risks related to work in a laboratory animal facility. Examples of potential health hazards when working at AKM are provided below.
Special information for pregnant and breastfeeding women
Certain methods and substances may be particular harmful for pregnant and/or breastfeeding women. Examples include ionizing radiation, several chemicals and medical substances. The university has a specific work routine for pregnant and breastfeeding women that can be found here.
If pregnant or breast-feeding women have any questions or doubts, they should contact the Occupational Health Service (see here).
The allergen density is high in an animal facility. Working with laboratory animals is a well-known risk factor for the development of allergic diseases. Persons with allergies against animals or plants, as well as asthmatics, are not recommended to work at AKM.
In order to diminish the exposure to allergens the use of correct protective wear is highly important.
All staff and students that are working with fur-bearing laboratory animals at AKM shall be offered the chance to join the health monitoring program. For more information on this program, see here.
Chemicals and medical substances
In an animal facility many different detergents and disinfectants are used in addition to various medical substances and other chemicals. Chemicals and other potential harmful substances should be handled in such a way that no damages to health or the environment occur. All use of potential harmful substances has to be specifically risk assessed.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for all chemicals and medical drugs has to be registered in the database and also be available in print. Users of AKM are obliged to provide MSDS for all relevant chemicals that will be used in experiments at AKM.
Ionizing radiation and radioactivity
We are using different equipment and methods at AKM that can cause radiation. The use of such methods and/or equipment has to be specifically risk assessed in addition to that all rooms/laboratories that will be used for this kind of work have to be especially approved and marked.
Even healthy animals may transfer infections to humans, for instance through bites or scratches. Proper handling of animals, correct protective wear, and good hygiene are important measures to prevent infections from animals to humans.
All personnel working with experimental animals at UiT should be offered tetanus vaccination (see here). Employees and students at UiT can be vaccinated against tetanus at the Occupational Health Service free of costs. For more information regarding tetanus vaccination, see the recommendations provided by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health here.
Work with known pathogens (infectious disease experiments) has to be especially risk assessed and also needs approval from various authorities including the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority. Please contact the Head of Unit at AKM if you are planning to perform such type of experiments.
It is not uncommon that various types of cells or other biological materials are implanted into animals during experiments. Such material may potentially pose an infection risk to animals and/or humans. Therefore all biological material/substances that will be applied to/used in animals will have to be microbiologicaly tested. Please contact the Head of Unit at AKM for more information regarding such testing.
The above mentioned examples of potential health risks at AKM does not constitute an exaustive list. There may be other methods, procedures or substances that may pose risks to health or the environment that have not been mentioned here. Therefore any new method or substances that are planned to be used at AKM has to be risk assessed prior to its implementation.
A safe workplace is a joint responsibility!
APPLICATION FOR ANIMAL EXPERIMENT
All applications to conduct experiments on animals must be submitted electronically via FOTS. Please contact UCM's leader in order to obtain a username and password. Applications should be submitted well in advance before the scheduled start of the experiment.
For in vitro projects, please use the application form found on the right menu of this page.
All orders of animals go through the Unit of Comparative Medicine (UCM). A separate order form must be filled as is available on the right menu of this page.
Order of rodents occurs on Wednesdays. 11:00 AM. Please fill out the form for ordering laboratory animals and deliver it to UCM well in advance and at the latest by 10:00AM on Wednesdays for processing on that week. Animals usually arrive the following week (normally Wednesday) and are quarantined for 5 days after arrival.
ORDERING LARGE ANIMALS
All orders of animals go through the Unit of Comparative Medicine (AKM). A separate order form must be filled and on the right menu of this page you will find the one for order of pigs. For other species please take contact with the Unit leader.
Your order must be submitted / delivered to UCM at least 10 days prior to pickup by the supplier.
COSTS FOR HOUSING LABORATORY ANIMALS AT UCM
Users will be billed for the housing of animals. The price list can be found here. External users will be charged VAT.
Invoices are sent out quarterly. For rodents, the price is given by unit cage/week; for other mammals prices are presented as individual/week; for zebrafish the price unit is aquarium/week.
NOTE: Purchase of animals are NOT included in the prices. Contact UCM for information on purchase prices for animals.
RESEARCH RELATED SERVICES
If you need technical assistance during your animal experiment please fill in the form available on the right menu of this page and deliver to the Unit well in advance of the assistance required period.
UCM USERS' HANDBOOK
The Unit has a user's manual which will in time be available online. This contains information about the department, the requirements of users and health, amont other topics. For the time be please contact the unit directly to receive a copy.
Links to 3R resources
Links to other laboratory animal facilities in Norway
Links to relevant legislation:
Links to laboratorial animal science associations:
Page editor: Andersen, Amalie Hofmeyer