No Social Isolation, No Human Handling:  Automated Phenotyping Instruments for Group Housed Animals

No Social Isolation, No Human Handling: Automated Phenotyping Instruments for Group Housed Animals

Good quality data that is reproducible and has high translation value comes from animals that are housed and phenotyped under the most optimal welfare conditions.

That challenge is – the most optimal conditions for them – includes testing under group housing conditions.

Test Equipment today is mostly designed to be used with isolated animals. This provides a constant source of stress and limits our understanding of how groups behave in certain situations – which is crucial to their survival.

In today’s blog, we will focus on three available test systems allowing group housing: the IntelliCage, Stellar Implantable Telemetry, and the PhenoWorld

Let’s begin.

One of the most frequently asked questions is how many animals can be tested in parallel?

3? 4? 6?

Using RFID transponder technology, the IntelliCage enables individual characterization of up to 16 Mice or 8 Rats.  The IntelliCage has been used in the preclinical characterization of animal models of Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Dementia, Epilepsy, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Pain and many other conditions, including learning and memory alterations.

Animals are individually recognized in four operant conditioning corners consisting of 2 Nosepoke units, signaling light, access to liquid reward, and air puff as negative reinforcement.  The software package with a graphical interface allows free programming of about 30 different behavioral paradigms including spatial and temporal learning and time-consuming operant tasks, like behavioral flexibility, impulsivity, or progressive ratio. These behavioral paradigms are fully automated and can be combined to automate test batteries.

Now, imagine being able to apply the concept of group-housing to telemetry in freely moving animals

Using a single Stellar telemetry receiver,  researchers can measure an unlimited number of group-housed animals (from mice to non-human primates or larger)  at a range of 5+ meters around the antennae. Since the implants also have memory on board it is possible to measure animals outside the antennae range, such as flying pigeons.

Stellar implants feature a powerful microprocessor, facilitating error-free digital data and wireless programmable sample rates and protocols and optimizing battery utilization. They can monitor various combinations of biopotentials (ECG/EMG/EEG), temperature, physical activity and leverage a solid-state pressure-tipped catheter for high-fidelity pressure measurements throughout the body (arterial, thoracic, heart, brain, bladder, ocular, etc.).

Consider this:  You can monitor the physiological changes associated with pharmacological evaluations of drug candidates in various species with the same hardware in a group of animals. The lack of social interactions between animals, investigated with standard telemetry solutions requiring single housing, may alter the observed results and impact statistical power and reproducibility.

Interested in super-enriched environments?  The PhenWorld takes rodent phenotyping to the next level.

In the PhenoWorld, animals live in social groups, which allows them to develop and display species-specific natural social behavior – a prerequisite for animal welfare and high translational value of experimental data. As in the IntelliCage, every animal is tagged with an RFID transponder and is recognized for individualized data acquisition. Animals travel between PhenoWorld compartments and levels through a number of different gating structures such as: (1) automated Animal Gates that allow restricted access to compartments depending on time and Animal ID; (2) tubes (3) tunnels, and (4) stairways.

Every PhenoWorld setup is unique and tailored to each customer’s specific needs. PhenoWorlds can be configured on one level or may extend across several levels adding further enrichment while saving space.

Together, through Science and Engineering – we are making a difference in the welfare of laboratory   animals used for disease and drug discovery research.  More comfort and enrichment, better data through automation and less human intervention can improve the  translational value.

To learn more about our Group-Housing Options, click the link below