Modernizing a Shared-Use Animal Facility Supporting Neuroscience Research at an HBCU
Delaware State University, (DSU) an Historically-Black university with an emerging strength in neuroscience
research is the lead institution in the NIH-funded Delaware Center for Neuroscience Research, which is in its 10th year
of support from an NIGMS Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence P20 grant. DSU’s Vivarium facility was
started under this Center grant to support DSU researchers conducting neuroscience research with mice. We are seeking
to modernize the operations of our Vivarium facility and ensure that it provides both efficient operations to support the
research of biomedical investigators at DSU and high-quality care for our rodent research subjects. The Vivarium Core,
which opened in freshly renovated space in fall 2017, is a key research resource housing the mouse models that are the
subject of NIH- and NSF-funded neuroscience research at Delaware State University.
We propose to upgrade the rodent housing in our Vivarium with a suite of automated environmental control
and monitoring systems - automatic watering, humidity control, and the Tecniplast Digital Ventilated Cages (DVC)
and Rack Environmental Monitoring (REM) Systems. These systems will enhance the efficiency of our facility and
improve the health of our research animals due to more stable environmental conditions and decreased need for animal
handling, cage manipulations and in person animal monitoring.
Tecniplast air handling units with humidity control, and an Edstrom automated watering system will
significantly improve the cage environment and care of our mice. The state-of-the-art DVC system and DVC Rack
Environmental Monitoring system (DVC-REM) have been designed to automatically and continuously monitor
important environmental parameters collected directly from animal rooms and even within the animal cages. Animal
activity monitoring can provide a continuous home cage animal welfare check without personnel having to enter the
animal room or disturb the cages, which will be particularly valuable for monitoring disease models and post-surgery
recovery. In addition, collecting animal activity data from the DVC system and complementing it with correlated
environmental conditions from the REM system provides a unique and robust approach to advance the reliability and
reproducibility of animal research, prevent animal loss due to environmental conditions (such as cage flooding), and
to help researchers better interpret possible unexpected results with their animal subjects.
The Vivarium core supports the externally-funded research of six neuroscience faculty at DSU, and it is likely
that future faculty hired in the biology and psychology departments at DSU will have research projects that involve
rodents. The more stable environmental conditions and reduced animal handling that will result from this facility
modernization will improve research reliability and reproducibility, increasing the research productivity of current and
future investigators and support the advancement of biomedical research.