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European project on the characterisation of transgenic rat models for neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases: Automated home cage analyses, live imaging and treatment

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Automated surveillance for animal models

European research has come up with significant shortcuts for the development of novel drugs to combat neurodegenerative diseases. Novel equipment includes automated home cage analysis and treatment with live imaging for rat subjects.


Neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's disease (HD), spinocerebellar ataxia type 17 (SCA17) and Parkinson's disease (PD) exact a high cost in terms of personal suffering and healthcare. Finding effective sustainable therapies involves efficient drug screening including behavioural and physiological monitoring of animal models. an EU-funded project, Ratstream, took a multi-pronged approach to speed up drug screening. The most significant elements were the development of genetically unique transgenic rats and design of special monitoring cages for housing. developed rat models incorporated all the neurodegenerative diseases under study. These included one for HD and another with upregulated genes for expressing a protein that can form aggregates in PD. For SCA17, a rat model with an expanded number of gene sequence repeats that results in the disorder was developed. automated home cage systems incorporated live imaging and programmed treatment systems. Project researchers also developed sets of data on physiological and behavioural characterisation. Adding to the efficiency, a Ratstream partner developed a specially designed integrated database to store information on an individual rat basis.Ratstream researchers successfully drew up a set of biomarkers for phenotype changes that indicate neurodegeneration. These can potentially shorten pre-clinical studies by providing the best behavioural markers from read-outs that indicate neuronal dysfunction and therefore disease progression. replacement of existing rat testing equipment will have significant economic benefits for producers of automated home cage systems. Faster drug screening is also good news in the bid to find effective therapies to halt or slow down neurodegenerative disorders.

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