Scarborough, J., Mueller, F., Arban, R. et al. 2020. Preclinical validation of the micropipette-guided drug administration (MDA) method in the maternal immune activation model of neurodevelopmental disorders. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 88, 461-470.

Pharmacological treatments in laboratory rodents remain a cornerstone of preclinical psychopharmacological research and drug development. There are numerous ways in which acute or chronic pharmacological treatments can be implemented, with each method having certain advantages and drawbacks. Here, we describe and validate a novel treatment method in mice, which we refer to as the micropipette-guided drug administration (MDA) procedure. This administration method is based on a sweetened condensed milk solution as a vehicle for pharmacological substances, which motivates the animals to consume vehicle and/or drug solutions voluntarily in the presence of the experimenter. In a proof-of-concept study, we show that the pharmacokinetic profiles of the atypical antipsychotic drug, risperidone, were similar whether administered via the MDA procedure or via the conventional oral gavage method. Unlike the latter, however, MDA did not induce the stress hormone, corticosterone. Furthermore, we assessed the suitability and validity of the MDA method in a mouse model of maternal immune activation, which is frequently used as a model of immune-mediated neurodevelopmental disorders. Using this model, we found that chronic treatment (>4 weeks, once per day) with risperidone via MDA led to a dose-dependent mitigation of MIA-induced social interaction deficits and amphetamine hypersensitivity. Taken together, the MDA procedure described herein represents a novel pharmacological administration method for per os treatments in mice that is easy to implement, cost effective, non-invasive, and less stressful for the animals than conventional oral gavage methods.

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