Animals containing human material

The Academy published a report examining the use of ‘Animals containing human material’ (ACHM) in scientific research in July 2011.


Animals containing human tissues, cells or genetic information are used to refine research methods, creating animal models that better represent human disease, and to develop and produce new therapeutics. The study examined the scientific, social, ethical, safety and regulatory aspects of research involving animals containing human material. The report proposes that experiments involving such animals should be classified into three categories, to help determine the level of regulatory scrutiny to which they should be subject. Amongst its recommendations are that:

  • The Home Office ensures that a national expert body with a duty to advise on the use of animals containing human material in research is put in place. 
  • The Home Office and the Department of Health work closely together, and with other bodies where appropriate, to ensure that there are no regulatory gaps, overlaps or inconsistencies in regulation.
  • The UK should lead in raising international awareness of animals containing human material, promoting international consistency in research practice involving their use, and exploring the development of international standards or guidance.

Evidence gathered to aid the working group included oral evidence sessions and correspondence with the working group, an open call for evidence and a programme of public dialogue with an associated evaluation.

In February 2016, the Home Office published new guidance on the use of human material in animals as a direct result of the recommendations of this report. The guidance provides much needed clarity on the regulation for research using animals containing human material. 
As recommended in our report, the Home Office has appointed a national expert body that will advise on ACHM research. This function will be assumed by the Animals in Science Committee, which already provides impartial and objective advice to the Home Office on the regulation of animal research. The Home Office has also adopted our recommended classification of ACHM research into three categories of regulation:
  1. Experiments which do not present issues beyond those of the general use of animals in research and should be carried out under the normal regulatory structures that govern other non-ACHM animal research.
  2. Experiments which are permissible, pending specialist review by the Animals in Science Committee as the national expert body.
  3. A narrow range of experiments that should not be licensed due to lack of scientific justification or very strong ethical concerns.
We will continue to work with partners to ensure awareness of ACHM research, consistency in research practice, and the development of appropriate standards or guidance. 

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