Telemetry is the remote detection and measurement of biological data about animal function, activity or condition. This includes a range of techniques of varying invasiveness, including video monitoring, non-contact thermometry, radio tracking, and the use of internally or externally mounted remote sampling systems. Telemetry systems, long used in studies of wildlife populations, have been increasingly applied in research settings for measurement of physiological and bioelectrical variables (e.g., blood pressure and heart rate).
Telemetry can contribute to reduction in animal numbers in the following ways:
- telemetry systems are stable for months (and possibly years), so animals can be used as their own controls, reducing data variance and therefore the number of animals needed per treatment group
- telemetry provides an ability to continuously record a number of variables so that there is a significant increase in the amount of data that can be obtained from a given number of animals, compared to conventional data collection methods
- telemetry improves data quality and quantity due to the absence of stressors such as handling, restraint and externalized catheters, which can lead to a reduction in the number of animals required for each study
- in toxicology and pharmacology, telemetry may also be able to identify dose-limiting effects of a compound evidenced by subtle changes in blood pressure or heart rate, so that higher dosing studies are not required
However when using telemetry to reduce animal numbers, care must be taken to ensure that the welfare of individual animals subjected to the telemetry procedures is not compromised. Therefore investigators should be aware of potential sources of pain and distress within telemetry projects, including:
- surgical implantation or attachment procedures
- physical impact of the device on the animal once it has been implanted or fitted
- distress induced by housing animals individually and by prolonged housing in the laboratory
This section has been adapted from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) website and Morton et al. (2003)
For more information on telemetry, the following resources may be useful.
- Hawkins P., Morton D.B., Bevan R., Heath K., Kirkwood J., Pearce P., Scott L., Whelan G. and Webb A. (2004) Husbandry refinements for rats, mice, dogs and non-human primates used in telemetry procedures. Seventh report of the BVAAWF/FRAME/RSPCA/UFAW Joint Working Group on Refinement, Part B. Laboratory Animals 38(1):1-10.
- McMahon C.R., Collier N., Northfield J.K. and Glen F. (2011) Taking the time to assess the effects of remote sensing and tracking devices on animals. Animal Welfare 20(4):515-521.
- Morton D., Hawkins P., Bevan R., Heath K., Kirkwood J., Pearce P., Scott L., Whelan G. and Webb A. (2003) Refinements in telemetry procedures. Seventh report of the BVAAWF/FRAME/RSPCA/UFAW Joint Working Group on Refinement, Part A. Laboratory Animals 37(6):261-299.
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