Technical Report Replacement of Vertebrates by Locust in Student Laboratory Exercises

  • A Alaburda Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Vilnius University
  • O Kaminskas Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Vilnius University
  • O Ruksenas Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Vilnius University

Abstract

The student laboratory exercises are a very important part in the curriculum of physiology, neurophysiology  and biophysics. Knowledge from lectures and books should be supported with some practical experience  based on work with live subjects. But this raises a very important question – is the use of animals for  teaching purposes acceptable? This is a controversial question for a long time in physiology teaching and  has numerous arguments for and against. With respect to efficiency and quality of teaching it is essential.  However, is this enough to justify the use of animals? 

Traditionally laboratory exercises are performed on frogs or rodents. Despites obvious advantages this has  serious disadvantages, namely relatively high costs related to animal facility and care of the animals. Applying  the 3R‘s principle, we replaced vertebrates by invertebrates and introduced laboratory exercises based  on recording of action potentials from wing stretch receptors of the locust (Robertson, 1992). Locusts are  cheap to buy (approx. 2 locust for 1 euro) and easy to care for. Preparation of locusts for experiment is very  simple. However, in this laboratory exercise students can learn such basic concepts like generation of action  potential, natural variability of recorded signals in a live system, adaptation and principles of coding in the  nervous system. Apart from this, modification of the experimental setup enabled us to investigate physiological  concepts like neural coding in more natural conditions. 

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