Newcastle University to investigate euthanasia of laboratory rodents

The NC3Rs has selected Newcastle University to receive a strategic award of £300k to establish methods of humane killing of laboratory rodents

A research group, led by Dr Huw Golledge of the University's Institute of Neuroscience, will undertake a three year programme of work which will culminate in a consensus meeting to disseminate the results to stakeholders.

Most laboratory rodents are killed by administering carbon dioxide (CO2). There is a general consensus that CO2 causes aversion but disagreement as to how significant this is. Some suggest that CO2 should be replaced by volatile anaesthetics (e.g. isoflurane). If CO2 is to be replaced, it is essential that the alternative is demonstrably more humane. If CO2 use is to continue, it is imperative that we understand which method of delivery represents best practice.

Dr Golledge aims to answer two questions in the course of his research:

  1. How aversive is CO2 compared to other methods? The conditioned place avoidance paradigm will be used to compare the relative aversiveness of carbon dioxide and isoflurane against known unpleasant stimuli (e.g. predator odour, cold).
  2. Could CO2 or isoflurane be applied in a less stressful way? The stress associated with euthanasia may be enhanced by moving animals to a euthanasia chamber. The possibility of exposing mice to CO2 in a less stressful way by carrying out the euthanasia in their home cages (or whilst sleeping) will be examined.

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