Chartier, L. C., Hebart, M. L., Howarth, G. S. et al. 2020. Affective state determination in a mouse model of colitis-associated colorectal cancer. PLoS ONE 15(1), e0228413.

Behavioural indicators of affective state, including burrowing, clinical scores and the Mouse Grimace Score have not yet been validated in mouse models of chronic gastrointestinal disease. Additionally, a comparison of these methods has not been characterised. This study aimed to determine which behavioural assessment was the optimal indicator of disease, evidenced by correlation with clinically-assessed measures, in an azoxymethane (AOM)/dextran sulphate sodium (DSS) mouse model of colitis-associated colorectal cancer. C57BL/6 mice were allocated to four groups (n = 10/group); 1) saline control, 2) saline+buprenorphine, 3) AOM+DSS+water, 4) AOM+DSS+buprenorphine. Mice were gavaged thrice weekly with water or buprenorphine (0.5mg/kg; 80μL) for 9 weeks. Disease activity index (DAI) was measured daily; burrowing and grimace analyses occurred on days -1, 5, 19, 26, 40, 47 and 61. Colonoscopies were performed on days 20, 41 and 62. All animals were euthanized on day 63. Burrowing activity and retrospective grimace analyses were unaffected (P>0.05), whilst DAI was significantly increased (P<0.05) in mice with colitis-associated colorectal cancer compared to normal controls. In addition, DAI was positively correlated with colonoscopically-assessed severity and tumour number (P<0.05). We conclude that traditional measures of DAI or clinical scoring provide the most reliable assessment of wellbeing in mice with colitis-associated colorectal cancer.

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