Scientists are increasingly interested in using and developing techniques to advance medical research without the use of animals, according to the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research (DHT).
The charity has received a record number of applications from scientists seeking funding to develop non-animal techniques in medical research, although more funding is needed to harness the full potential of these technologies.
The DHT is a medical research charity that funds non-animal techniques, with a portfolio of projects at universities, hospitals and research institutes across the UK.
The charity currently awards up to GBP700,000 in grants annually in a range of medical fields, such as cancer, neurological diseases and cardiovascular conditions.
Grant applications to the DHT that meet the charity's strict scientific and ethical criteria are short-listed for peer review by a panel of external experts specialised in the particular field of interest.
This year, the charity received 120 research applications for funding - a 500 per cent increase on the previous year.
According to the DHT, such an increasing interest from scientists from all fields to advance medical research and replace animal experiments is a very positive and significant step forward.
Various research approaches, including advanced 3D cell culture techniques, computer modelling and non-invasive brain scanning, are being proposed by scientists dedicated to improving medical progress by replacing often inadequate or poorly performing animal models with more human-relevant techniques.
Dr Sebastien Farnaud, science director of the DHT, said: 'The limitations of using animals are becoming increasingly acknowledged within the scientific community.
'This is reflected by the increase in the number of grant applications where applicants are motivated by a desire to improve the quality of their research and replace animals with more human-relevant advanced methods and technologies.
'The ethical responsibility to tackle animal suffering is also a key factor, with many of the proposals having the potential to replace the use of thousands of animals each year,' he added.
Past DHT successes include funding early-stage research that led to a non-animal method to replace the Draize rabbit test for severe eye irritancy; research in the early 1990s that pioneered the development of the non-invasive magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain scanner to study the human brain and replace invasive experiments on cats and monkeys; and, in 2009, a 3D multi-cellular model of a form of human breast cancer.
The charity's current research portfolio includes the development of further 3D human tissue structures with targeted gene disruptions that replace genetically modified mice; the use of fibroblasts as a new disease model for Huntington's disease; and an advanced brain research tool called dual-site transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), instead of invasive experiments on primates, to study brain function in humans.
However, the charity has said that it will not be able to fund each and every highly relevant application as more funding is needed to develop the full potential and make use of such advanced research.
Kailah Eglington, chief executive of the DHT, said: 'Non-animal replacement techniques represent some of the most exciting and advanced technological approaches that medical science has to offer, so it is encouraging to see an increased interest from more scientists across all fields.
'At the same time, it's disheartening to see that so many of these replacement solutions might never be explored because of insufficient funding.
'We call upon the public to help raise more vital funds to pursue better and more ethical medical research,' added Eglington.