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Unanticipated Experimental Outcomes

Because scientific inquiry involves exploration of the unknown, the outcome of experimental procedures is sometimes unpredictable. In the case of animal experimentation, this may result in situations in which animal health and/or welfare are adversely affected.

Genetically manipulated animals (GMA) provide a good example. Initially, the overall effect(s) of a particular genetic manipulation may be unknown. However, once animals are generated the resulting novel phenotypes may include immune deficiency, metabolic disorders, behavioral abnormalities or other health issues that make those animals more susceptible to disease or distress. GMA lines that exhibit abnormalities in health or behavior often require the establishment of revised husbandry and/or monitoring protocols. Humane endpoints specific for the GMA line may also need to be developed. More information on assessing the welfare of GMA can be found on the NC3R's site.

In the case of a new GMA line it is recommended that the first generation be closely observed from birth to early adulthood for signs of disease, pain or distress. In addition, investigators should be aware that infertility or other causes of decreased breeding success may increase the number of animals used and require revisions of the IACUC protocol.