Determining candidate hypobaric hypoxia profiles for humane killing of laboratory mice

Jasmine Clarkson, Dorothy E. F. McKeegan, Julian Sparrey, Francesco Marchesi, Matthew C Leach, Jessica Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Millions of mice are used annually in scientific research and must be humanely killed. Despite significant welfare concerns, carbon dioxide exposure remains the most common killing method, primarily because there is no practical and humane alternative. We explored whether hypobaric hypoxia via gradual decompression could induce a non-recovery state in anesthetized male C57BL/6 and Balb/c laboratory mice. We aimed to determine if this was possible in a feasible timescale with minimal pathological consequences, as a proof-of-principle step. Systematic evaluation of two decompression rates (75, 150 ms -1) and three profile shapes (accelerated, linear, gradual) in a factorial design revealed that hypobaric hypoxia effectively induced a non-recovery state in anesthetized laboratory mice, irrespective of decompression rate and shape. Mice took longer to reach a non-recovery state with the 75 ms -1 decompression rate (75 ms -1: 257 ± 8.96 vs. 150 ms -1: 214 ± 7.26 s), with longer latencies in gradual and linear shaped profiles. Accelerated shaped profiles were least susceptible to meaningful refinement via rate. The only pathological changes of concern were moderate middle ear congestion and hemorrhage. These findings suggest that hypobaric hypoxia has potential, and subsequent work will evaluate the welfare consequences of gradual decompression in conscious mice, to identify decompression profiles that minimize welfare harms associated with ear barotrauma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number834478
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Low atmospheric pressure stunning
  • MICE
  • behaviour
  • Euthanasia
  • Euthanasia, Animal

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