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NC3Rs: National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research

Food restriction in rodent studies – is it necessary and how could it affect your data and animal welfare?


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Mouse in a standard cage next to some food pellets

Food restriction is a commonly used procedure in both academic and industry settings. In preclinical toxicology studies and basic research animals are often fasted prior to blood sampling to ensure a standard baseline and enable between animal comparisons. Food restriction is also widely used in the field of neuroscience to motivate performance in behavioural tasks that involve a food reward.

Food restriction paradigms must be carefully designed, and animal welfare closely monitored throughout these studies to ensure that any associated adverse effects such as weight loss are minimised. Food restriction can also lead to the induction of daily torpor, a physiological state in which various species including mice, can enter a state of supressed metabolic activity and hypothermia lasting for a few hours each day. Many researchers are unaware of the existence of daily torpor and do not take this into account as a factor that could be influencing the quality of their data.

The NC3Rs is hosting a webinar that will address the scientific and welfare implications of using food restriction with rodents. The webinar will feature presentations from academic and industry experts in the fields of preclinical diabetes, daily torpor and regulatory toxicology. This will include coverage of where the use of shorter, more refined food restriction paradigms (or the removal of food restriction altogether) have been shown to have positive welfare outcomes, while also resulting in more reliable and reproducible data. Lastly, a new automated system for monitoring food intake in socially housed mice, initially developed through the Moshers CRACK IT Challenge by the team at Research Devices Ltd, may provide further welfare benefits to rodents undergoing food restriction.

Speakers are:

  • The use of fasting in diabetes research (welfare and scientific considerations). Dr Aileen King, King’s College London.
  • Is fasting required prior to blood sampling for Clinical Pathology on regulatory toxicology studies. Aidan McGuire, Charles River Laboratories, Edinburgh.
  • Fasting induced torpor: impacts on physiology and experimental outcomes. Dr Vladyslav Vyazovskiy and Sian Wilcox, University of Oxford.
  • Moshers (a CRACK IT challenge): automated home-cage monitoring of food intake using cameras and machine learning. Dr Lawrence Moon, Research Devices Ltd.

This webinar will be relevant for all academic, regulatory and industry scientists interested in, or already using food restriction in rodents. There will be a panel discussion at the end of the webinar, with an opportunity for audience members to ask questions. The webinar is free to attend.

Certificates of attendance are available on request.