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Exploring the Possibilities of ActualHCA
“This is a technological breakthrough. This data collection wasn’t possible before now.” Dr Will Redfern, AstraZeneca
As you may be aware, especially if you took part in our recent webinar, the Actual Home Cage Analyser system was developed as part of the CrackIt challenge.
CrackIt is an initiative driven by the NC3Rs with the aim of finding innovative solutions to issues that scientists have when trying to apply the 3Rs.
AstraZeneca was one of the sponsors of the challenge that led to the ActualHCA being developed, and the company’s Associate Director of the Cardiovascular and CNS Translational Centre of Expertise, Dr Will Redfern, helped to develop the system and fully bring it to life. Dr Redfern was kind enough to participate in our recent webinar, and has given us some extremely useful insights into the system’s current (and future) uses. In this blog post and the next one, we’re going to take a closer look at some of his points.
What if you could monitor the ambulatory activity of each individual rodent within a group in a standard home cage over 24 hours or longer?
The ActualHCA system monitors individual rodents by using an RFID chip smaller than a fingertip. There is no need for surgery: it is injected subcutaneously. The chip is then tracked by the baseplate monitor under the cage. This combination allows the rodents to be tracked individually and makes them easily identifiable on the footage.
Rodents fare much better in group environments, and this means they can be left to their own devices while under observation, reducing signs of stress that can interfere with results. The system is so finely tuned that rodents can even be mixed into different treatment groups and still identified, allowing for a reduced number of animals that carries the same statistical power as a larger number.
What if you could also monitor their temperature?
As you are most likely aware, taking the temperature of rodents is invasive for them and disrupts the group cage environment. Luckily, the RFID chips serve another purpose. In addition to delivering positional information, they work with the baseplate monitors to generate temperature data. This allows researchers to track changes in rodent temperature with consistent monitoring on a 24-hour basis.
Dr Redfern has already observed that rats in group housing have a higher subcutaneous temperature than solitary rats; this is most likely due to the opportunities to huddle together afforded by group housing, as well as ambient temperature differences when there are more rodents in the space. Of course, this information would have been difficult, if not impossible, to observe and record using traditional methods.
This is only the beginning of what can be achieved with the ActualHCA system. In the next post we will cover more of Dr Redfern’s observations and offer more details on the potential current and future applications of the ActualHCA system.