Development of a step-down method for altering male C57BL/6 mouse housing density and hierarchical structure: Preparations for spaceflight studies

David C. Scofield, Jeffrey D. Rytlewski, Paul Childress, Kishan Shah, Aamir Tucker, Faisal Khan, Jessica Peveler, Ding Li, Todd O. McKinley, Tien Min G. Chu, Debra L. Hickman, Melissa A. Kacena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study was initiated as a component of a larger undertaking designed to study bone healing in microgravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Spaceflight experimentation introduces multiple challenges not seen in ground studies, especially with regard to physical space, limited resources, and inability to easily reproduce results. Together, these can lead to diminished statistical power and increased risk of failure. It is because of the limited space, and need for improved statistical power by increasing sample size over historical numbers, NASA studies involving mice require housing mice at densities higher than recommended in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research Council, 2011). All previous NASA missions in which mice were co-housed, involved female mice; however, in our spaceflight studies examining bone healing, male mice are required for optimal experimentation. Additionally, the logistics associated with spaceflight hardware and our study design necessitated variation of density and cohort make up during the experiment. This required the development of a new method to successfully co-house male mice while varying mouse density and hierarchical structure. For this experiment, male mice in an experimental housing schematic of variable density (Spaceflight Correlate) analogous to previously established NASA spaceflight studies was compared to a standard ground based housing schematic (Normal Density Controls) throughout the experimental timeline. We hypothesized that mice in the Spaceflight Correlate group would show no significant difference in activity, aggression, or stress when compared to Normal Density Controls. Activity and aggression were assessed using a novel activity scoring system (based on prior literature, validated in-house) and stress was assessed via body weights, organ weights, and veterinary assessment. No significant differences were detected between the Spaceflight Correlate group and the Normal Density Controls in activity, aggression, body weight, or organ weight, which was confirmed by veterinary assessments. Completion of this study allowed for clearance by NASA of our bone healing experiments aboard the ISS, and our experiment was successfully launched February 19, 2017 on SpaceX CRS-10.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-50
Number of pages7
JournalLife Sciences in Space Research
Volume17
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2018

Keywords

  • Aggression
  • Behavior
  • Mouse housing density
  • Spaceflight
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Ecology
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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