Research Ethics

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Research involving the use of animals

We know that asthma is a complex condition, and our researchers are still piecing together the information to answer important questions that will help to identify the underlying causes and find new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent asthma. Under certain circumstances, some of this research cannot be done without involving animals. Asthma UK understands and appreciates that people do have concerns about medical research involving animals, and charities providing funding support for it, and shares people's concerns about the well-being of animals in medical research.

  • Asthma UK supports the Home Office's commitment to the '3Rs', which serves to refine experimental techniques and procedures, reduce the number of animals involved in research and replace animals in research wherever possible.
  • All Asthma UK supported researchers whose research projects involve the use of animals follow strict laws and require licenses from the Home Office for both themselves and the project itself.
  • Each research project application is carefully screened and reviewed by Asthma UK's Research Committee of scientific and medical experts, and is also peer-reviewed by other international experts. There is a dedicated section within the application form for researchers to provide justification for the use of animals which reviewers use in order to assess the suitability of the proposed use of animals.
  • The research project must meet Asthma UK's strict criteria, including how it will help us to learn more about asthma, and adhere to the Home Office's guidelines for the welfare of the animals.
  • Asthma UK is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and we adhere to their guidelines on medical research involving animals, and endorse their position on the use of animals in research.

There is currently no cure for asthma and there are around half a million people whose asthma is still difficult to control even with current therapies. Through research, we have made major advances in medical understanding and some of this research has involved the use of animals. This includes the development of asthma inhalers, the mainstay of treatments today.

We would like to reassure our supporters that Asthma UK would only consider funding research involving animals if all other possibilities have been carefully and fully considered, the research is not an unnecessary duplication of previous work and it is likely to lead to essential information that could otherwise not be achieved by alternative methods.

You can find out more about the use of animals in research in the following resources:

Use of embryos in research

Funding research into the causes of asthma is a priority for people with asthma, Asthma UK and our supporters because we still do not know exactly why some people develop asthma or how to prevent it. Our research programme reflects the views and experiences of people with asthma and the leading current opinions and knowledge in science and asthma care.

Asthma UK understands and appreciates that people do have concerns about medical research involving human embryos, and charities providing funding support for it. Asthma UK does not currently fund any projects that require human or hybrid human embryos but as a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities, backs their support of the use of human embryos and the creation of hybrid human embryos when the research has the potential to make significant medical advances.

Under strict regulations, human embryos may be created and maintained outside the body for no longer than 14 days to provide a source of stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialised cells that have the potential to become any type of cell within the human body. These cells can provide vital information on how conditions develop because they enable us to study how cells mature from the very early stages. In certain circumstances, the shells of animal eggs may house human DNA taken from patients to produce hybrid human embryos. Human embryos or human hybrid embryos could be used in this way in asthma research to look at how the cells of the airways develop in the first place. Alternatively, the stem cells might be used as a source of new airway tissue for people with asthma.

Asthma UK has not excluded the possibility of providing funding for this research area in the future but such research would take into consideration the views of people with asthma, healthcare professionals and researchers on this sensitive issue. Should the circumstances arise and Asthma UK were to agree to fund this research, proposed work would have to comply with the very strict legal requirements as outlined by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990) following approval by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

The annual call for research proposals, our research strategy and summaries of all funded research are made public on our website, along with scientific publications arising from the research projects.

We would like to reassure our supporters that Asthma UK would only consider funding this research if it is likely to give essential information that could not be achieved by alternative methods.

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