Facilities

Rodent Facility

The new rodent facility will be operational at the beginning of 2018. It is a shared resource of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and the Life Science Research Unit (LSRU) at the University and has been established to assist researchers in the development and analysis of various in vivo models including germ-free animals. We are currently collaborating closely with 8 research groups in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and immune research. The facility counts 1200 mouse cages and 300 rat cages and consists of two breeding rooms, three surgery rooms and three behavioural rooms.

Breeding area
The breeding area has the capacity to house about 600 individually ventilated mouse cages (each with an average capacity for 3 mice) and more than 100 different mouse lines can be maintained and bred there. A comprehensive health surveillance programme ensures that the mice are free of pathogens. Bedding, water and cages are sterilised by autoclaving. The feed is irradiated and microbiological and environmental parameters are constantly monitored.

Experimental area
The experimental area has the capacity to house 600 mouse and 300 rat cages dedicated to experimental studies on transgenic rodents, use of different viral vectors (tools commonly used to deliver genetic material into cells) and monitoring of xenograft models (transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one specie to another).

As the animals do not have the same status, the breeding and experimental areas are kept separated to prevent contamination. In the experimental area, the mice are housed in ventilated racks to maintain clean air, and specific biosafety measures are implemented when working with pathogenic agents.

This area offers the possibility of running a broad number of experimental procedures, including behavioural tests, surgical procedures and monitoring of the mice through non-invasive imaging technologies (PET/MRI scanner and bioluminescence imaging system).

Daily operations
Daily operations and husbandry procedures are done following high standard procedures in order to safeguard our personnel from any associated risks and to ensure animal welfare. Robotic devices perform any potentially hazardous tasks, such as the processing of dirty bedding, the washing/filling of cages and bottles, etc. These automated systems generate the highest productivity possible and ensure the quality standards in our washing and sterilizing area. All records concerning breeding protocols and animal inventory are stored securely.

 

Aquatic Facility

A first pilot zebrafish facility was operational between 2013 and 2016. This small, customised facility had the capacity to house 1200 to 1500 adult zebrafish. In August 2015 a new, modern and semi-automated platform was installed in compliance with international standards (EN ISO 61010). This facility has been fully operational since January 2016 and has a maximum capacity of ca. 30.000 fish. It provides husbandry and embryo production services to support biomedical research and teaching activities within the University of Luxembourg and abroad. The zebrafish embryos and larvae are used to generate disease models. These models are then used for drug discovery and toxicology assays, as well as for studying disorders of the Central Nervous System (CNS), such as epilepsy and rare neurodegenerative diseases.

Breeding area
Zebrafish husbandry is relatively easy thanks to their small size and high fecundity. The dedicated facility has a surface of ca. 85 m2 and is separated in two rooms:

- The aquatic room, where the racks with freshwater fish tanks (3.5 L each) are located. This room is separated in two areas: the central area that holds a centralised housing system, and the quarantine area that holds a standalone unit. The central area can house a maximum of 29000 adult fish in 1440 fish tanks and is used to raise and maintain in-house strains. The quarantine area can house ca. 1000 adult fish in 50 tanks and is used to raise new strains and monitor their health.

- The technical room, which holds the centralised life system for water filtration, the reverse osmosis water production unit and the aquatic washing system. Those ensure the maintenance of constant micro-environmental conditions, such as pH, temperature and conductivity, in order to properly house zebrafish and ensure animal welfare.

Experiments
All experiments using zebrafish are performed in embryos or in larvae at an early developmental stage, and they are conducted in the dedicated laboratories, outside of the facility. No experiments are being performed on adult zebrafish. They are solely used for breeding purposes.

Zebrafish embryos and larvae are optically translucent, develop externally and show high degree of genetic, physiological, and pharmacological homology to humans. That is why they are good in vivo disease models, particularly models of human CNS disorders.

The embryos and larvae are used for different purposes. The ability to quickly generate stable transgenic and mutant lines makes the zebrafish an important organism to perform gene-function analysis. In addition, zebrafish are well suited to perform high-throughput in vivo screens of small molecules to identify new potential drugs. They are also used to validate candidate drug targets and more generally to give insights into novel therapeutic approaches.

Daily operations
Daily operations, husbandry and all procedures with zebrafish are performed in accordance with European laws, guidelines and policies for animal experimentation, housing and care, and following the principles of the 3Rs. Robotic feeding, maintenance of constant micro-environmental conditions, and semi-automated cleaning systems are used to ensure quality and animal welfare. All records concerning husbandry, breeding protocols and animal inventory are stored securely.