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Continuous sensor-based homecage recordings for SCI research

Funder: Craig H Neilsen Foundation

Funding period
USD 600 K
Funding amount
A major bottleneck hindering clinical translation of SCI animal research is variability in experimental outcome.A continuous record of the temporal dynamics in variables that define the physio-behavioral self may offer transformative insight to the origins of inter-animal variability. Unfortunately, the present research enterprise is not positioned to assess continuous influence. (1) Separation of research testing from vivarium impedes such studies as vivarium time greatly dominates an animal’s life history. (2) Current technologies for recording cardiorespiratory and behavioral variables in home-cage recordings are invasive and/or very expensive and require individual housing (social deprivation).Current lab testing largely excludes consideration of differences between animal housing conditions, including life experience in the vivarium, even though these variables likely provide ‘low-hanging fruit’ in understanding the range of environmental variation seen between labs. Four specific aims are proposed[SA1] - Technology development and validation. To remove these bottlenecks, we are pioneering low-cost, ultra-sensitive electric field sensors embedded within rodent home-cages. Data collected via attached data loggers will capture a near-continuous quantifiable chronological record of cardiovascular and motor behavior dynamics. Strategic home-cage shelter design will be undertaken first to optimize proximity in sensor embedding for selective recordings from individual animals in dual-housed home cages. Accuracy of measures will be verified using currently accepted approaches including telemetric recordings from implanted arterial transducers and videographic verification of behaviors. Subcutaneous RFIDs will initially associate an animal to sensor proximity. Once developed, we will provide detailed instructions on construction and use of this technology (and distribute replicable standalone units) to other SCI research laboratories. Rapid technology dissemination and use may hasten and broaden our understanding of the origins of inter-lab variability on experimental results. To additionally hasten insights on the utility of this approach, we propose to begin:[SA2] - Phenotyping physio-behavioral temporal dynamics after-induced pain and SCI.[SA3] - Uncover phenotypic predictors of disease emergence. [SA4] – Real-time ‘smart’ feedback-based detection and minimization of dysfunction.The SCIRTS Senior Grant funding mechanism “focuses on innovative projects by established contributors” with the stated goal being - “not to substitute for NIH funding, but to use Neilsen Foundation funding to open new areas of research, fill gaps in the SCI field and encourage cutting-edge ideas and approaches that have great potential, despite some additional risk.” We believe this proposal embodies the challenge and risk expected of this funding mechanism. (CHN: SCIRTS chn:wdg)
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