Could Non-Invasive Identification be Remarkable for LAS?

  • Is there an opportunity for new, non-invasive identification methods in your lab animal research? Opportunities to enhance lab animal welfare, and lab animal science, are constantly presenting themselves in new ways. Do you want to stay on the cutting-edge?

    In our webinar, “What’s Next? Unfinished Business for Lab Animal Care,” Steven Niemi, DVM, DACLAM, and Cindy A. Buckmaster, Ph.D., discuss these opportunities. What’s more, Steven Niemi discusses new, non-invasive tools to identify individual animal models that could improve lab animal science.

    He explains how the current ways researchers identify individual lab animals are limited. Current practices are the use of tattoos and ear tags/punches. These options are acceptable, but Niemi doesn’t think animal researchers should settle for just “acceptable.”

    Thoughtful Non-Invasive Alternatives to Increase Lab Animal Welfare

    So, in the spirit of aiming for the stars, Niemi shares some suggestions for non-invasive identification tools that could take your research from just acceptable to incredible. And truly improve the well-being and quality of life for animal models.

    Pattern Recognition

    Niemi explains how new technology using artificial intelligence can identify animals by the patterns on their hair coats. Right now, wildlife research uses this technology to track various animals. Niemi suggests this could be beneficial for lab animal research. Especially for studying zebrafish.

    Zebrafish are exceptionally valuable in LAS. But investigators and researchers face challenges distinguishing them as individuals. According to Niemi, investigators routinely house zebrafish in group tanks, which is great for socialization but could limit accuracy.

    Using pattern recognition could help investigators more easily distinguish between zebrafish while improving their accuracy.

    Facial Recognition Software

    You have probably heard all about facial recognition software, either on the news or on social media. But have you ever considered the possibilities this type of technology could have on the lab animal science community?

    Niemi suggests it might be an alternative, non-invasive way to track non-human primates. We presume those animals already distinguish different facial features from each other. Maybe facial recognition technology could help researchers better differentiate them, without resorting to using permanent markings.

    Niemi ends this topic by saying, “food for thought.” We don’t know if facial recognition software would work perfectly in identifying non-human primates. But it’s certainly worth discussing.

    How Utilizing Non-Invasive Identification Methods Aligns With the 3Rs

    As the industry moves towards replacement, reduction, and refinement, more and more opportunities for advancement appear.¹ And as Niemi explains, gold standards in lab animal science are ever-evolving, constantly changing, and in need of scrutiny.

    One way to refine animal research could be adjusting the current ways we track and identify animal models, such as ear tags and tattoos, to the non-invasive strategies that Niemi presented. And this is just one innovative way to refine research and improve animal well-being.

    More From Our Webinar: Genetics Impact How Severe Infectious Diseases Can Be

    Another topic Niemi uncovers in this webinar is how research shows that genetics can play a big part in how people experience symptoms of diseases.

    Want to Learn More?

    If you are interested in more discussion about ways to improve lab animal science, watch our latest webinar.


    ¹ Zemanova, Miriam A. “Towards More Compassionate Wildlife Research through the 3RS Principles: Moving from Invasive to Non-Invasive Methods.” BioOne Complete, Nordic Board for Wildlife Research.