Does the stress of laboratory life and experimentation on animals adversely affect research data? A critical review

Jarrod Bailey

Recurrent acute and/or chronic stress can affect all vertebrate species, and can have serious consequences. It is increasingly and widely appreciated that laboratory animals experience significant and repeated stress, which is unavoidable and is caused by many aspects of laboratory life, such as captivity, transport, noise, handling, restraint and other procedures, as well as the experimental procedures applied to them. Such stress is difficult to mitigate, and lack of significant desensitisation/habituation can result in considerable psychological and physiological welfare problems, which are mediated by the activation of various neuroendocrine networks that have numerous and pervasive effects. Psychological damage can be reflected in stereotypical behaviours, including repetitive pacing and circling, and even self-harm. Physical consequences include adverse effects on immune function, inflammatory responses, metabolism, and disease susceptibility and progression. Further, some of these effects are epigenetic, and are therefore potentially transgenerational: the biology of animals whose parents/grandparents were wild-caught and/or have experienced chronic stress in laboratories could be altered, as compared to free-living individuals. It is argued that these effects must have consequences for the reliability of experimental data and their extrapolation to humans, and this may not be recognised sufficiently among those who use animals in experiments.

This article is currently only available in full to paid subscribers. Click here to subscribe, or you will need to log in/register to buy and download this article

Evaluation of Anti-inflammatory and Atrophogenic Effects of Glucocorticoids on Reconstructed Human Skina

Günther Weindl, Francesca Castello and Monika Schäfer-Korting

Topical glucocorticoids (GCs) are extensively used in the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. However, their long-term use is often accompanied by severe and eventually irreversible adverse effects, with atrophy being the most important limitation. Currently, most non-clinical studies involve animal testing, so the results are not always representative of the situation in humans. The aim of this project was to establish an in vitro test protocol for the evaluation of the anti-inflammatory and atrophic potential of topically applied GCs in reconstructed human skin. Initial studies with fibroblasts and keratinocytes confirmed the anti-inflammatory and atrophogenic effects of GCs, as evidenced by decreased cytokine production and collagen mRNA expression. In non-pretreated reconstructed human skin (EpiDermFT™), the topical application of GCs for seven days strongly reduced the secretion of interleukin (IL)-6. GC-induced skin atrophy, known to appear only after prolonged treatment, was not detected by the analysis of epidermal thickness and collagen mRNA expression. However, reproducible epidermal inflammation was established for the first time in reconstructed human skin. Topical treatment with tumour necrosis factor (TNF) increased IL-6 release and strongly reduced epidermal thickness accompanied by severe parakeratosis. GC treatment of reconstructed human skin reduced IL-6 levels and completely resolved parakeratosis, leading to the normalisation of epidermal thickness. These induced inflammatory conditions mimic more closely the clinical situations in which GCs are used, and therefore appear to be more suitable for future investigations for the establishment of a human-based in vitro test protocol for evaluating wanted and unwanted GC effects.
You need to register (for free) to download this article. Please log in/register here.