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Effects of acute chemotherapy-induced mucositis on spontaneous behaviour and the grimace scale in laboratory rats

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthew Leach


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Intestinal mucositis is a frequent side-effect of chemotherapy treatment. Many oncological research programs aim to identify novel treatments for this distressing condition, and these programs frequently use rat models. Little is known about the presence and progression of pain in these models and how this can best be treated by analgesic therapy. We used a number of behaviour-based methods of pain assessment to determine which tools were best suited for pain identification. Baseline measures for behavioural assessment, rat grimace score and sociability were determined through analysis of continuously recorded video data and an applied social interaction test (n = 16). Mucositis was then induced by intraperitoneal injection of 5-fluorouracil (150 mg/kg) and further behavioural analyses undertaken. An assessment of enrichment interaction was also made by determining the mass of a plastic chew toy gnawed both pre- and post-chemotherapy injection. Behavioural scoring was performed 1, 6, 12, 24 and 48h after injection, with facial expression being scored at the 12, 24 and 48h time-points. Sociability testing was performed once during the post-injection period. No significant differences were found in grimace scores between baseline and later daily measures. Behaviours similar to those previously reported post-laparotomy were observed. Writhing, twitching and back-arching behaviours were most evident in rats affected by mucositis and were increased in frequency (respective P values: 0.002, 0.004 and 0.008) 48h after chemotherapy injection compared with baseline, implying that pain onset occurred around this time-point. Social investigatory behaviour was also increased (P = 0.002) following disease onset. Each day, rats post-5FU injection gnawed a greater percentage of their nylabone enrichment by weight than the saline-injected control rats (P = 0.046). These data suggest that, of the tools tested, behavioural assessment scoring may find greatest utility in rodent models of intestinal mucositis and should be investigated further.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whittaker AL, Leach MC, Preston FL, Lymn KA, Howarth GS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Laboratory Animals

Year: 2016

Volume: 50

Issue: 2

Pages: 108-118

Print publication date: 01/04/2016

Online publication date: 10/07/2015

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

ISSN (print): 0023-6772

ISSN (electronic): 1758-1117

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/0023677215595554


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