Prof Dr Jaap Keijer
Chair Human and Animal Physiology
Human and animal physiology (HAP) uses animals for improved understanding of their physiology and as models for humans, to investigate aspects of human biology that cannot be studied directly in humans. We perform our studies only after national and local ethical permissions which guarantees that the our research questions outweigh the potential discomfort for the animals. Experiments are performed with utmost care in very good facilities. HAP is of the opinion that an increasing number of research questions can be addressed by the use of in vitro and in silico methodologies that will become available in the (near) future, as well as by the development of new methodologies to directly study humans. However, for mechanistic understanding, in particular in tissues that cannot be sampled in living humans and/or for studies involving the interaction between various physiological systems in the body, HAP is of the opinion that animal studies are needed and will be required for at least the coming decades. In our studies, we not only answer fundamental biological questions, but also develop preventive and curative treatments. We focus on fundamental understanding of energy metabolism and animal studies are inevitable to study energy metabolism related processes in tissues such as the liver and heart. Animal studies are also needed to understand how organs interact in metabolism (of nutrients), to study physiological consequences of mitochondrial gene defects and to obtain a causal understanding of risk factor-induced chronic diseases and how such diseases can be prevented by specific foods. When using animals in our research, we strive for maximum research output with minimal use of animals. In order to achieve this, we invest in the development of a) cellular model systems that better mimic physiology, of b) ex-vivo models that reduce the number of animals used, of c) non-vertebrate models and of d) non-invasive technology, advanced sampling methods and in silico tools to obtain more data from an animal experiment. We also invest in e) understanding determinants of translational validity and in f) the development of improved and non-invasive methods to study humans. With these investments, we contribute the 3R principles and to the mission of Wageningen University; To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.