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Using rodent grimace scales in biomedical research

Lab mouse by Rama CC by 2.0

Explore the barriers and enablers to the use of rodent grimace scales in biomedical research, in this honours project which targets a theoretical domains framework approach.

The use of animals in biomedical scientific research is globally significant, with approximately 115 million animals used per year (Taylor et al. 2008). Researchers, facility staff and animal ethics committees have an ethical obligation to minimise pain and distress felt by these animals, in addition to promoting their positive welfare.

This responsibility is an essential component of one of the founding tenets of biomedical research; that of refinement. Endeavours to minimise suffering not only protect animal welfare, but go some way towards addressing societal concerns over use of animals in research, to maintain a ‘social licence’ to operate.

Despite significant research attention, assessment of animal affective states remains challenging, particularly when this is needed in a day-to-day practical scenario. Many methods are time consuming, labour intensive, or not specific to a defined affective state. (Whittaker, A. L. & Marsh 2019)

However, in terms of pain assessment the ‘grimace scales’ have been shown to be reliable tools, with applicability across a range of animal models and species. (Mogil et al. 2020; Whittaker, A.L., Liu & Barker 2020)

They therefore offer significant possibilities for refinement by allowing for earlier humane endpoint implementation, or the provision of rescue analgesia.

Yet, despite their promise as pain assessment tools, we suggest, based on our personal experience, that they have not been implemented widely in animal research establishments, either as part of research protocols, or for clinical pain assessment. This assertion provide the basis for the proposed project.

Therefore, using survey methods we aim to:

  1. Determine the extent of use of rodent (rat and mouse) grimace scales in biomedical research facilities as a) a research outcome, b) as a clinical pain assessment tool.
  2. Identify any demographic factors influencing regular use of grimace scales.
  3. Quantify and explain behavioural determinants acting as barriers or enablers to the use of rat and mouse grimace scales globally in biomedical research using the theoretical domains framework as a basis.


Tagged in Honours projects - Animal science, Honours projects - Alexandra Whittaker