Pain Assessment in Research Animals and the Role of Pain as a Confounder in Animal Based Research

Identifying Pain in Rodents: The Search for an Accurate Point-of-Care Pain Assessment

Dr. Jennifer Lofgren, University of Michigan Medical School

The ability to accurately identify pain in rodents is critical for providing optimal care and welfare to the most widely utilized species in research. Additionally, accurate pain assessment is crucial for the successful translation of rodent models of pain to human medicine. Evaluating post-operative pain in rodents can be challenging as they are a prey species with a strong evolutionary drive to suppress pain behavior in the presence of an observer and this problem is further complicated by the time constraints of research, veterinary and husbandry staff to assess large numbers of rodents on a daily basis. In this session, we shall discuss the limitations of published measures currently used to assess clinical pain in rodents and the need for an easy to use, objective, point of care assessment for use by a wide variety of individuals. Evidence from several studies will be reviewed demonstrating the challenges of assessing pain in rodents, as well as positive steps forward including two novel cage-side pain assessments developed in our laboratory for use in mice, nesting consolidation and grooming transfer tests. 


Effects of Analgesics and Pain on Research Outcomes

Norman C. Peterson, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, MedImmnune


A major challenge faced by scientists and bioethics review committees in evaluating several research proposals is in pre-determining how unrelieved pain or the choice of analgesics might influence outcomes. There tends to be a bias toward assuming a negative impact from the latter, and this is likely the result of the perception that the addition of pharmaceuticals adds unknown variables and that the additional effort needed to treat and monitor pain have little scientific value.  In this session, we shall discuss ways in which to assess requests for exemption of the use of analgesics on the grounds that they may confound research results.  Evidence from several studies demonstrates that the molecular and physiologic effects of unalleviated pain upon the model need to be considered and that lack of intervention may adversely affect outcomes as well.  Additionally, the translational relevance of the models needs to be considered when the use of analgesics comes into question.   The information provided here will help scientists and reviewers make sound decisions with regard to the use analgesics in in vivo studies.


About the Speakers…

Dr. Jennifer Lofgren, University of Michigan Medical School

Dr. Lofgren is a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.   Additionally, she is the faculty lead for the Enrichment and Social Housing Committee and serves as the University’s Associate Attending Veterinarian with a focus on Practice Standards and Enrichment. She is also the co-founder of the Refinement and Enrichment Advancements Laboratory (REAL).   REAL’s goal is to optimize biomedical research efforts through improved animal wellbeing by understanding the relationship between the animal’s lived experience and the scientific results.  Dr. Lofgren has received 3 grants including from the American College Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM Foundation) and the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (GLAS) to support nociceptive and behavioral research to identify pain behaviors and effective alleviation of pain in rodent species.   Prior to joining the University of Michigan, Dr. Lofgren completed a visiting research fellowship at Newcastle University where she learned how to conduct scientifically rigorous studies that isolate and evaluate pain behavior in rodents.  She became a Diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine in 2011 after completing post-doctoral training in Comparative Medicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   While at MIT, Dr. Lofgren engaged in infectious disease and cancer research, as well as refining husbandry and veterinary care to improve animal welfare.    Dr. Lofgren completed a dual degree Masters in Comparative Biomedical Sciences and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University.


Norman C. Peterson, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, MedImmnune

Dr. Peterson received his BS, MS, and DVM from the University of Illinois and residency training in Laboratory Animal Medicine and PhD in Comparative Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to joining Medimmune, he was on faculty at Johns Hopkins University.   He has been at MedImmune/AstraZeneca for 12 years and is currently the Director of Veterinary Sciences.   His interests are in animal model development and applications in in vivo imaging technology.  While at MedImmune he contributed to the development of over 30 discovery and pipeline projects using the latest in vivo optical imaging technology.  Recently, he has been instrumental in bring PET-CT imaging to Medimmune and will be expanding expertise in this area.  He is also actively involved in the promotion and development of technologies and models that support the 3Rs (Alternatives to Animals).



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