Cohousing male mice with and without segmental bone defects

Jeffrey D. Rytlewski, Paul J. Childress, David C. Scofield, Faisal Khan, Marta B. Alvarez, Aamir T. Tucker, Jonathan S. Harris, Jessica L. Peveler, Debra L. Hickman, Tien Min G. Chu, Melissa A. Kacena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Spaceflight results in bone loss like that associated with osteoporosis or decreased weight-bearing (for example, high-energy trauma such as explosive injuries and automobile accidents). Thus, the unique spaceflight laboratory on the International Space Station presents the opportunity to test bone healing agents during weightlessness. We are collaborating with NASA and the US Army to study bone healing in spaceflight. Given the unique constraints of spaceflight, study design optimization was required. Male mice were selected primarily because their femur is larger than females', allowing for more reproducible surgical outcomes. However, concern was raised regarding male mouse aggression. In addition, the original spaceflight study design included cohousing nonoperated control mice with mice that had undergone surgery to create a segmental bone defect. This strategy prompted the concern that nonoperated mice would exhibit aggressive behavior toward vulnerable operated mice. We hypothesized that operated and nonoperated male mice could be cohoused successfully when they were cagemates since birth and underwent identical anesthetic, analgesic, preoperative, and postoperative conditions. Using quantitative behavioral scoring, body weight, and organ weight analyses (Student t test and ANOVA), we found that nonoperated and operated C57BL/6 male mice could successfully be housed together. The male mice did not exhibit aggressive behavior toward cagemates, whether operated or nonoperated, and the mice did not show evidence of stress, as indicated by veterinary assessment, or change in body or proportional organ weights. These findings allowed our mission to proceed (launched February 2017) and may inform future surgical study designs, potentially increasing housing flexibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalComparative medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • veterinary(all)

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