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Research

Research units

Animal Research and Ethics Support Group (GSEA)


​Last update on June 2019


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The GSEA provides support to research teams working in the in vivo experimentation platforms within the framework of research carried out at IRSN on the biological effects of ionizing radiation. Its goal is to ensure researches are performed in compliance with regulations and ethical principles.




Background and purpose​
Research on the effects of ionizing radiation on human health still requires in vivo studies. Especially for studying the response of the organism as a whole and understanding the complex mechanisms involved in the biological effects. To do so, there are currently no viable alternative methods.

The use of animals in research is strictly regulated by French and European regulations. Other guidelines and best practices, promoting ethical principles also apply. At IRSN, the GSEA ensures compliance with all these obligations and provides a dedicated support for research teams performing in vivo projects.

The GSEA is responsible for:
  • managing all resources related to in vivo research: sourcing, supplies, supervision of health and environmental conditions, use and maintenance of equipment and facilities;
  • ensuring animal welfare before, during and after all experiments;
  • advising research teams on all aspects relating to animal research;
  • being involved in research projects by providing expert knowledge and advice on biological models;
  • ensuring compliance with the regulations;
  • maintaining a quality management system in accordance with IRSN standards.


Supervising research​
The GSEA does not conduct its own research projects, but provides support and expertise for projects carried out by IRSN's Human Health and Environment research units.

The ethical and responsible use of animals is based on the application of fundamental principles, called the 3Rs, which are applied worldwide. Developed in 1959 by two British researchers, William Moy Stratton Russell and Rex Leonard Burch, the 3Rs are central to the ethical approach underlying all in vivo research projects:
  • Reduce the number of animals used in research;
  • Replace in vivo models with alternative methods (in vitro, in silico, etc.) wherever possible;
  • Refine the procedures with a view to protecting the animal’s welfare as far as possible.

The GSEA helps ensuring compliance with these principles, together with the respect of the national 'charter' on the ethical use of laboratory animals, as well as supervising research teams and technicians in their application of the following obligations:
  • to comply with the principles underlying the ethical use of animals, since animals are sentient beings,
  • to provide a suitable environment for the animals in the facilities used to accommodate them,
  • to treat the animals with all the respect and consideration they deserve,
  • to call in the so called designated veterinarian when necessary to check, aid or treat the animals,
  • to report any failure to comply with or violation of the regulations relative to animal welfare,
  • to propose, if desired, any changes that would improve animal welfare and well-being.

To achieve this, IRSN has set up two entities:

  • The Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (C2EA-IRSN)
Created in 1998, this Committee was registered and approved in 2012 by the French Ministry for Research, and has adopted the principles set out in France's National charter on the ethics of animal experimentation (in French). Its members include not only people working at IRSN, but also external members. They provide support, advice and expertise to researchers on all aspects of the ethical use of animals in the projects submitted for assessment.

All projects requiring the use of in vivo models are subject to prior authorization by the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research, and the Ministry calls on the C2EA-IRSN committee to assess the ethical aspects of each project. For each application, the researchers submit a prospective assessment of the suffering involved and whether that can be justified by the expected benefits of their research. They can consult with the designated veterinarian of the IRSN, who is also the head of the GSEA. The C2EA-IRSN assesses whether or not IRSN projects comply with the principles of ethical animal experimentation.

This committee is also involved in promoting awareness of ethics in animal research at the Institute.

  • Animal-Welfare bodies (AWB or SCBEA in French)
Two AWB have been created, one for the Fontenay-aux-Roses site (SCBEA-FAR) and the other for the Cadarache site (SCBEA-CAD). They are responsible for supporting researchers using in vivo procedures as part of their research projects (follow-up of projects, areas for improvement, technical support, etc.).


Equipment and methods​
The GSEA is in charge of two in vivo experimentation platforms at the Fontenay-aux-Roses site. The first is used for testing external exposure to ionizing radiation, while the second focuses on internal radionuclide contamination (PARISII). Both these platforms conform to the new standards introduced by Directive 2010/63/EU (standards relating to accommodation facilities, reviews of project ethics, application of the 3Rs, SCBEA, daily monitoring, etc.).

The GSEA also provides its expertise to the teams based at Cadarache regarding ecotoxicology models.


Partners and networks​
IRSN is a member of GIRCOR (interprofessional group for discussion and communication on research in relation to animal experimentation) and the Grice (interprofessional group for discussion on ethics committees in relation to animal experimentation).

The GSEA team plays an active role in various professional associations and networks working in the field of laboratory animal science and ethics:

  • The ComEt IDF network,
  • The Celphedia (creation, breeding, phenotyping, distribution and archiving of model organisms) working group on ethics,
  • Afstal (French association of laboratory animal science and techniques),
  • ESLAV (European Society of Laboratory Animal Veterinarians).

IRSN's designated veterinarian, who heads the GSEA team, is also a member of the AAALAC International Council on Accreditation – European section 

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Research Programs

  • Support for research projects carried out at the Department for research into the biological and health effects of ionizing radiation (PSE-Santé/SESANE)
  • Support for research projects carried out at the Department for radiobiological and medical research (PSE-Santé/SERAMED)
  • Veterinary support for research projects carried out at the Department for research on radionuclide transfer and impact on ecosystems (PSE-Env/SRTE)

Equipment and facilities

​PARISII facility

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