New Techniques for Handling Lab Mice
Improving handling techniques for laboratory mice helps reduce stress and anxiety, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Methods. The techniques identified in the study should lead to further improvements in the welfare of the mice. Currently, the standard procedure for handling mice is to pick up the mouse by its tail. However, scientists have not been aware that this can cause anxiety and stress to the mouse as mice appear to have an innate aversion to tail handling. Professor Jane Hurst and Rebecca West from the University of Liverpool have identified two other handling methods that significantly reduce anxiety and stress.
The first method involved bringing a clear acrylic tunnel towards the mouse. The mouse would voluntarily walk into the tunnel, allowing it to be lifted without direct contact. The second method was for the handler to cup the mouse in his or her hands and allow it to walk freely over the open gloved hands. As unfamiliar mice tend to jump immediately away, Professor Hurst recommends closing the hands loosely around the mouse on the first time until it becomes accustomed to the experience.
The researchers also found that restraining a mouse by its tail did not cause undue stress or anxiety if the mouse had first been picked up using one of the above methods. When the mouse needed to be restrained more securely by the scruff of the neck, this did not reverse the taming effects of being handled on the open hands or using a tunnel.
Hurst JL, West RS. Taming anxiety in laboratory mice by non-aversive handling. Nature Methods 2010.