Administering medicines to rodents with minimal stress

© Ginger Hobi-Ragaz und Stephan Läuppi

An NRP 79 research project is working to establish the MDA method as the new standard practice so that medicinal products can be administered to rodents orally without causing undue stress.

Animal experiments frequently require the oral administration of substances. Often this involves using an oral gavage feeding tube, which causes stress and can potentially cause injuries (e.g. to the animal's oesophagus). As an alternative, Urs Meyer and his team working in the framework of NRP 79 – “Advancing 3R” have developed the micropipette-guided drug administration (MDA) method for rodents. With this method, the animals ingest the substance voluntarily and without risk of injury via a sweetened solution (in this case condensed milk is used). "This almost completely stress-free oral administration of substances has enormous potential”, says Urs Meyer.

The research project is aimed at establishing MDA as a new standard method of oral administration of medicinal products to rodents, substituting the traditional method of oral gavage as much as possible. To achieve this, Meyer's team is assembling scientific data for various research fields in Switzerland to show which applications (e.g. with which substances) the method is effective, as well as its limitations in comparison with oral gavage.

The research team is promoting the MDA method through various initiatives, including via social media, a website, training opportunities and meetings with different interest groups. In this way, the team also hopes to inform political decision-makers, public authorities and the general public about MDA as a 3R alternative to the use of feeding tubes.

To ensure that the MDA method becomes established in the long term, its integration into training programmes for laboratory animal technicians is essential – it is important, for instance, that technicians learn to apply the method correctly. Consequently, the team is working closely with training managers across Switzerland and Europe.