Redaelli, V., Papa, S., Marsella, G. et al. 2019. A refinement approach in a mouse model of rehabilitation research. Analgesia strategy, reduction approach and infrared thermography in spinal cord injury. PLoS ONE 14(10), e0224337.
The principles of Refinement, Replacement and Reduction (3R’s) should be taken into account when animals must be used for scientific purpose. Here, a Reduction / Refinement approach was applied to the procedure of spinal cord injury (SCI), an animal model used in rehabilitation medicine research, in order to improve the quality of experiments, avoiding unnecessary suffering. The aims of this investigation were 1- to assess acute surgical pain in mice subjected to SCI, 2- to compare the efficacy of commonly used analgesia (three buprenorphine subcutaneous injection in 48 hours, 0,15 mg/kg each) with a combination of opioid and NSAID (one subcutaneous injection of 5 mg/kg carprofen before surgery followed by three buprenorphine subcutaneous injection in 48 hours, 0,15 mg/kg each) and 3- to test if Infrared Thermography (IRT) could be a potential new Refinement method to easily assess thermoregulation, an important metabolic parameter. Finally, we aimed to achieve these goals without recruiting animals on purpose, but using mice already scheduled for studies on SCI. By using behaviours analysis, we found that, despite being commonly used, buprenorphine does not completely relieve acute surgical pain, whereas the combination of buprenorphine and carprofen significantly decreases pain signs by 80%. IRT technology turned out to be a very useful Refinement tool being a non invasive methods to measure animal temperature, particularly useful when rectal probe cannot be used, as in the case of SCI. We could find that temperatures constantly and significantly increased until 7 days after surgery and then slowly decreased and, finally, we could observe that in the buprenorphine and carprofen treated group, temperatures were statistically lower than in the buprenorphine-alone treated mice. To our knowledge this is the first work providing an analgesic Refinement and a description of thermoregulatory response using the IRT technology, in mice subjected to SCI.