Endpoints in myelin-deficient (MD) rats.
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Health problems in some animal models remain unexplained, rendering in vivo studies ethically challenging, especially when experimental animals are prone to sudden death. Over the last 3 decades, the myelin-deficient (md) rat, a strain with severe dysmyelination due to mutant proteolipid protein, has been key to important discoveries in mechanisms of myelination and glial cell biology. The usefulness of this mutant rat, however, has been limited by sudden death during the fourth week of life. Timely euthanasia has been difficult because the cause of these mortalities remains unexplained and the endpoint not determined. In this clinicopathologic study, we determined that sudden onset of hindlimb paralysis inevitably leads to paralysis of the urinary bladder and then breathing difficulties because of severe injury to the spinal cord in the midthoracic region with concurrent narrowing of the vertebral canal due to fracture of a vertebral body. Sudden onset of hindlimb paralysis likely is related to seizures and severe muscle spasms that begin to occur at the end of the third week of life. Once seizure activity begins, we recommend frequent monitoring of md rats for hindlimb paralysis and distention of the urinary bladder as indication of endpoints mandating prompt euthanasia.
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