Reducing animal numbers in tasks of memory

We have funded a partnership between Dr Alex Easton and GSK to develop and validate a new apparatus for industry use which reduces the use of mice in spontaneous recognition tasks.

Research details

Solution provider: Dr Alex Easton
Organisation: Durham University
Start date: 2013
Duration: 12 months
Amount: £30k
Project partner: GSK

Case study

Alex and his team, with NC3Rs funding, had previously developed a continuous trials apparatus for studying spontaneous recognition tasks in rats. The tests are used to assess memory, but the reliability of the data collected can be confounded by environmental factors such as handling which affect the animal’s behaviour.

With the continuous trials apparatus, Alex had shown that multiple trials can be run by a single rat in a single session with no handling between trials. This minimises the inter-animal and inter-trial variability and allows the number of rats used per experiment to be reduced. However, with an increasing number of genetically altered mouse models of cognitive decline being produced, the apparatus required adaptation to allow for wider uptake.

Working with scientists at GSK, Alex and his team validated the apparatus for use with mice. This showed that the number of mice used could be reduced by 50%, to eight per experiment. Importantly, by minimising the behavioural noise, the team identified new insights into age-related memory decline in the TASTPM mouse model of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alex has used the data generated in the collaboration to secure £74k from Innovate UK to work with Campden Instruments, to develop a semi-automated version of the apparatus, that includes a camera to monitor behaviour in the testing chamber and an app for behavioural scoring. In 2019 Alex and Campden Instruments received further CRACK IT Solutions funding to assess the prototype apparatus in a range of mouse and rat recognition studies as part of a collaboration with scientists from four UK universities.

In-kind contributions

Durham University provided matched funding to support a PhD studentship. Access to mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease were provided by GSK.

This case study was published in our 2019 CRACK IT Review.