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

Does the Stress Inherent to Laboratory Life and Experimentation on Animals Adversely Affect Research Data?

Jarrod Bailey

Stress and distress in laboratory animals is often inherent and unavoidable. The effect of these factors on the reliability and relevance of experimental data is not sufficiently appreciated. Greater awareness, debate and discussion of this issue are urgently required.
You need to register (for free) to download this article. Please log in/register here.

Alopecia Scoring: The Quantitative Assessment of Hair Loss in Captive Macaques

Paul E. Honess, Jessica L. Gimpel, Sarah E. Wolfensohn and Georgia J. Mason

Many captive animals show forms of pelage loss that are absent in wild or free-living conspecifics, which result from grooming or plucking behaviours directed at themselves or at other individuals. For instance, dorsal hair loss in primates such as rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) in research facilities, results from excessive hair-pulling or over-grooming by cage-mates. This behaviour appears to be associated with stress, and is controllable to some extent with environmental enrichment. Quantifying alopecia in primates (as in many species) is therefore potentially useful for welfare assessment. A simple system for scoring alopecia was developed and its reliability was tested. Study 1 showed high interobserver reliability between two independent scorers in assessing the state of monkeys’ coats from photographs. Study 2 showed that there were no significant differences between the scores derived from photographs and from direct observations. Thus, where hair loss due to hair pulling exists in captive primates, this scoring system provides an easy, rapid, and validated quantitative method, for use in assessing the success of attempts to reduce it via improved husbandry. In the future, such scoring systems might also prove useful for quantifying barbering in laboratory rodents.
You need to register (for free) to download this article. Please log in/register here.