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Past Projects Supported by the Animal Facility

Measuring Behavioral Outcomes in Children Exposed to Prenatal Methylmercury

The Behavioral Facility Core has been instrumental in assisting in the measurement of specific aspects of cognitive function in children in the Seychelles who are participants in studies of the long-term effects of fish consumption which includes both the potential for exposures to contaminants such as mercury, but also beneficial exposures to proteins such as omega fatty acids. The Core has implemented tests of learning/planning (Stockings of Cambridge, Intra Extra-Dimensional Shift Set, paired associates learning) attention (rapid visual processing, reaction time) and memory (delayed matching to sample, spatial recognition memory) using CANTAB software (Cambridge Cognition) administered via lap top and touch screen to children as young as 5-6 years of age in these studies. (Davidson et al., 2011).

Circadian-coupled Cellular and Physiological Changes in Chronic Inflammatory Conditions

The goals of this project is to elucidate the role of peripheral circadian periodicity genes/proteins-CLOCK, BMAL1 and Period2 in regulating lung cellular, molecular and physiological functions in pathogenesis of COPD, and deficiency or posttranslational modifications of circadian proteins lead to loss of efficacy of steroids and β2-agonists in patients with COPD and during its exacerbations, and strategic chronotherapeutic manipulation of circadian proteins which has translational potential to treat patients with COPD. For this, the circadian locomotor activity of mice which were exposed to cigarette smoke is continuously monitored in real-time using the photobeam activity system (San Diego Instruments), a study funded by the NIH to Dr. Irfan Rahman. This system has been set up and run with an assistance of the Animal Behavior Assessment Unit.
Investigators: Dr. Jae-woong Hwang and Dr. Irfan Rahman

Astrocyte Cell Therapy for CNS Injury

Our previous studies on the cell therapeutic treatment of spinal cord injury have identified a specific glial cell population with tremendous potential to promote neuronal survival and functional recovery upon transplantation into the injury site ( PLoS ONE 6(3): e17328). We are now testing the potential for this cell-therapeutic agent to promote recovery in other forms of CNS injury, including traumatic brain injury (TBI). A key measure of therapeutic success is that of functional recovery. Besides disrupted motor function, memory loss and impaired cognition are the most prevalent sequelae of TBI. Traditional measures of learning and memory performance (e.g., Morris water maze) are labor intensive, provide few data parameters and require additional control procedures to separate motor from cognitive dysfunction. By taking advantage of facilities at the Animal Behavioral Assessment Unit (UofR) we are using computer automated operant chamber techniques that provide high-throughput, quantitative data of multiple behavioral parameters with internal controls that will allow us to separate motor from cognitive dysfunction.
Investigator: Dr. C. Proschel, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute, Department for Biomedical Genetics

Loss of Neuroendocrine Precursor Cells Leads to Reduction in Olfactory discrimination

Our lab has generated a mutant strain of mice lacking specific neuroendocrine precursors in the olfactory epithelium. A downstream effect appears to be loss of olfactory neurons in the epithelial layer. To investigate if this leads to functional changes, olfactory discrimination was tested on the mutant mice. We worked with the Animal Behavior Assessment Unit to develop the olfactory discrimination assay and to carry out the subsequent testing and analysis.
Investigators: Dr. Catherine Ovit, and Mridula Vinjamuri, M.S.