How do you care for 1000’s of research animals with fewer staff and increasing demands?
The current practice requires staff to be in the room and go cage by cage looking in while animals are sleeping to check food, water and health. This is very tedious and unproductive because animals are asleep during the day and hard to visualize. It also disturbs the animals, which can affect your study results.
New technology allows us to monitor animals more effectively and efficiently in their home cages on their regular racks. Home Cage Monitoring makes it possible to monitor animals’ activity levels, locations, and overall health remotely without disturbing animals.
A Home cage monitoring system is defined by these features:
monitoring in the home cage where the home cage is standard high-volume housing (not custom low volume housing)
provides ability to assess the basic welfare needs of an animal remotely or autonomously
makes it possible to monitor animals at night with infrared cameras when rodents are most active
provides auditable and easily accessible historical data/information from each cage
able to scale to monitor 1000s of cages technologically, in a cost-effective way that produces a measurable return on investment (ROI) for labor
provides a level of animal care that boosts animal welfare
We can customize the frequency of video clips saved, video quality resolution, and more to make it scalable. Combining the software customization with consumer grade electronics enables us to make the system cost-effective and still meet the needs of everyone in your facility.
A great example of using home cage video monitoring for husbandry purposes is how Justin Bevere and team at WVU are using it in their COVID-19 vaccine research. I recently interviewed Justin to learn more about the amazing work that his team is doing. Justin R. Bevere, MBA, is the Assistant Director at the West Virginia University (WVU) Vaccine Development center. His team’s research was recently featured in an article in Nature magazine article about the increased effectiveness of an intranasal COVID-19 vaccine versus intramuscular and the improved localized immune responses in the upper respiratory system of mice. “Intranasal administration of BReC-CoV-2 COVID-19 vaccine protects K18-hACE2 mice against lethal SARS-CoV-2 challenge.”
Their lab focuses on vaccine development for whooping cough, COVID-19, antimicrobial resistant pathogens (like pseudomonas), vaccine programs and antibody discovery programs.
WVU Vaccine Development Center Team Photo in front of their Lab.
Photo Credit: WVU Damron-Barbier Lab Members
Justin said “It’s been interesting to go from our lab never working in BSL3 to doing it all the time. We are going daily into and out of high containment areas. It takes a big team. The coolest thing is that we are mostly focused on pre-clinical and discovery research, but because of our industry collaborations, many of the vaccines are already in clinical trials. For example, we worked on a COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India and those clinical trials are in progress. We are making a big impact from right here in Morgantown, WV. “
This WVU lab has been using the SwiftSENSE video monitoring for over a year. They were initially interested in using it to be able to better prepare the team and staff for projects that they are doing. Most of the time the projects involve a very large number of animals, and they usually have time limits. There is a 3-hour time limit for staff working in ABSL3 rooms. Depending on what they see on the video monitors determines who goes into the room, how long they’re in there, what work they plan to complete during that time, and when backup help arrives. Their video monitoring of animals is mostly used for planning staffing and knowing what activities they’re most likely to need to perform while they’re in the ABSL3 rooms, based on what they see on the videos.
Video monitoring has reduced the risks to humans - time, fatigue and infection – in the BSL3 facility. They are able to more properly prepare and assist team members. Justin said, “if we look at the videos and see activity levels are low in 9 out of 10 cages, we send everyone in versus sending in only 1 person.”
Some of the Team in ABSL3 Protective Gear.
Photo Credit WVU Damron-Barbier Lab Members
In this way, they use the video home cage monitoring as a secondary tool to assist the team in planning to view and care for the animals.
“We are able to view the animals in a way that we were never able to do before,” said Justin Bevere. He continued, “And we can use it to check on our staff in real time while they’re in the room working. If we see that cage 8 animal is out of its cage, then we know that they’re almost done and will be coming out of the room soon.”
Justin explained that the staff is often busy and dedicated, so they won’t send a message with updates saying that they need extra help. Justin said, “If they’re only on box # 5 and it’s noon, we know that they need more help, and we’ll send someone else in to assist them.”
Justin anticipates that the WVU Vaccine Center will probably be involved in COVID research for a little bit longer, but they also have some emerging pathogen projects that may be up and coming. And with their COVID research, they may be evaluating hamster transmission models. If so, they hope to use SwiftSCIENCE’s home cage video monitoring to gather more types of data for their research, such as identifying if the hamsters are coughing. In that example, we would adjust the equipment and settings so that they have full 24/7 video capture on those cages that need it. The other cages in the facility can continue to only collect periodic video clips for health, welfare and work planning purposes.
Today’s home cage monitoring solutions allow you to use the video monitoring for husbandry purposes that collects few video clips less often, at lower resolution, or to collect higher resolution video 24/7 for scientific data collection purposes. These adjustments allow us to customize the solution, making it scalable and affordable for all facilities while improving workflow planning and overall animal welfare.
To learn more about home cage monitoring with SwiftSCIENCE, visit us at https://www.swiftscience.com/.
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