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Seiffert, Isabel; van Dijk, Roelof Maarten; Koska, Ines; Di Liberto, Valentina; Moeller, Christina; Palme, Rupert; Hellweg, Rainer and Potschka, Heidrun (2019): Toward evidence-based severity assessment in rat models with repeated seizures: III. Electrical post-status epilepticus model. In: Epilepsia, Vol. 60, No. 8: pp. 1539-1551

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Objective Ethical approval of experiments in chronic epilepsy models requires a careful balancing of the expected gain-in-knowledge with the level of distress. Thus recommendations for evidence-based severity assessment and classification are urgently needed for preclinical epilepsy research. Methods Therefore, we have completed a comprehensive analysis of alterations in behavioral, biochemical, and physiological parameters in a rat electrical post-status epilepticus model. Selected parameters were repeatedly analyzed during different experimental phases to obtain information about the level of distress throughout the course of the model. Results Behavioral patterns comprised an increase in activity along with a reduction in risk assessment behavior, active social interaction, saccharin preference as well as nonessential, but evolutionary-determined behavior such as nest building and burrowing. Among the biochemical parameters, fecal corticosterone metabolites proved to be increased in different phases of the experiment. In the early post-insult phase, this increase was reflected by elevated serum corticosterone concentrations. Telemetric recordings demonstrated increases in home cage activity and heart rate in selected experimental phases but argued against relevant changes in heart rate variability. Comparison between animals with tethered or telemetric recordings including a principal component analysis revealed differences between both groups. Significance The present findings further confirm that burrowing behavior and saccharin preference might serve as valid parameters for severity assessment in chronic epilepsy models. Considering the course of alterations providing evidence for a more pronounced level of distress in the early phase following status epilepticus (SE), we suggest a classification of the electrical post-SE model as severe. This suggestion may serve as a guidance for laboratory-specific evaluations. Comparison between data from animals with tethered and telemetric recordings indicated an impact of the mode of recordings. However, further research is necessary to analyze the validity of telemetry as a putative refinement measure.

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