Notification from ACC Coordinator – SOP Updates

*** Important Notice *** SOP Updates for U of T Animal Research Community  9/14/2021

Dear U of T animal user community, 

Several SOPs have recently been updated and the notable changes are summarized below. 

  • Housing Mice
  • SOP: 5.11.0 Mouse & Rat Husbandry Procedures
  • Consult SOP for more details of allowances for each cage type at each facility. 
  • Notable Change: All mice are to be weaned/housed at a maximum of4 mice per cage to meet CCAC requirements for minimum floor space. This is new for some U of T animal facilities that previously housed up to 5 mice per cage. 
  • Deadline for Implementation: end of 2021 
  • Nesting Material
  • SOP: 5.11.0 Mouse & Rat Husbandry Procedures
  • Notable Change: All mouse and rat housing cages are to include nesting material.
  • Deadline for Implementation: immediately 

 

  • Secondary Method of Euthanasia
  • SOP: 12.2.0 Rodent Euthanasia (CO2, Chemical, & Physical)
  • Notable Change: All euthanized animals are to undergo an approved secondary method of euthanasia(unless a physical method was used as the primary method) before they are placed in the freezer. 
  • For mice, approved physical methods include cervical dislocation, thoracotomy, exsanguination (e.g., cardiac perfusion), or decapitation.
  • For rats, approved physical methods include thoracotomy, exsanguination (e.g., cardiac perfusion), or decapitation. Cervical dislocationis no longer an acceptable secondary method for rats.  
  • Deadline for Implementation: immediately

 

  • Euthanasia of Pregnant Females and of Neonatal Mice <10 days
  • SOP: 12.2.0 Rodent Euthanasia (CO2, Chemical, & Physical)
  • Notable Change: If females are pregnant with fetuses that are > 14 days gestation, following euthanasia of the female, you must decapitate all fetuses
  • Reminder that decapitation of neonatal mice <10 days is also required as they are resistant to CO2/iso.
  • Deadline for Implementation: immediately

 

  • Surgery 
  • SOP: 10.3.0 Sterile Techniques, Intra-Operative & Post-Operative Care
  • Notable Changes: 
  • Skin disinfectant– Chlorhexidine (2%) is to replace the use of iodine as skin disinfectant for surgical preparation by the end of the year. 
  • Suture material – Silk sutures are no longer acceptable. Instead use the following non-absorbable options (e.g., polypropylene, nylon) or long-acting absorbable sutures (e.g., Vicryl, PDS, polysorb). 
  • Heat source for surgeryElectrical pharmaceutical heating pads are no longer acceptable for operative or post-operative heat support as they can cause burns. Instead, use a circulating hot water/infra-red blanket, warmed oat bag, hot water bottle, heated stage, as appropriate. 
  • Deadline for Implementation: end of 2021

Access to the full SOPs can be found here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please forward them to acc.coordinator@utoronto.ca.

Best,

Dave

David Hanwell (he/him)

University Veterinarian and Director, Animal Ethics and Compliance

Research Oversight and Compliance Office (ROCO)

Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation

david.hanwell@utoronto.ca | (647) 700-8692

General inquiries: acc.coordinator@utoronto.ca 

 

 

Notification from ACC Coordinator – September 2021 COVID-19 Updates

*** Important Notice *** September 2021 COVID-19 Updates for U of T Animal Research Community 9/3/2021

Dear U of T animal user community, 

Please see the following important COVID updates below. 

  1. Animal facility physical distancing and PPE requirements

As per University policy, as of September 13th, all members of our community who come onto campus will be required to have proof of vaccination via UCheckPhysical distancing and PPE requirements to participate in activities on campus are evolving and are currently being reviewed. Note that animal facility requirements may exceed the broader campus guidelines for the Fall semester.   

The following physical distancing and PPE requirements will be in effect until further notice (please keep these in mind when planning activities): 

  • Personnel are to work independently whenever possible to do so in a safe and effective manner. 
  • PPE requirements for >2m distancing, and space occupancy limits will remain the same until further notice. 
  • Note change to PPE requirements: if working <2m from others for ANY amount of time, eye protection (face shield/goggles/safety glasses with side protectors) AND a fit-tested respirator will be required (i.e., the <15-min time consideration is no longer in effect). 

o    eye protection AND a fit-tested respirator will now be required 
(i.e., the 15-min time consideration is no longer in effect) 

o    Contact your local EHS to arrange for a fit test as soon as the need for a respirator is identified to help avoid delays in completion of training or performance of procedures that require one. 

o    (From EHS) Eye protection must provide a barrier to splash/spray from both the front and from the sides and if applicable, from the top (e.g., Health care worker). For this reason, goggles and face shield are the primary forms of protection when there is a risk of splashing (e.g., healthcare workers providing care to sick patient). Some but not all forms of safety glasses may provide adequate eye protection. Safety glasses may be considered in specific situations where there is a low risk of splashing and where the use of goggles or face shields may impede the worker’s vision causing safety concerns. Where safety glasses are used, select models where gaps between the face and glasses are minimized. Where applicable, consider sourcing products that have an anti-fog coating. If you have any further questions on appropriate eye protection, please contact EHS.

  1. Animal census & Animal handler training

Given recent developments in COVID-related policies of the University and provincial government that better ensure that those coming on campus are vaccinated and thus impose less risk of transmitting the virus to others, restrictions to animal census and training and use will be lifted as of September 7th. 

Restrictions on training are being lifted, however there may be delays due to the backlog imposed by restrictions and space occupancy limits. Personnel should only schedule hands-on training close to the time that the learned skills will be used following it and are only to perform tasks for which they have received training and have been deemed competent. 

 Please reach out to your local facility manager/director as appropriate, if new projects and/or spaces are required, as facilities must follow University restrictions on maximum occupancy limits. 

As with throughout the pandemic, these conditions may require updating at any time if there are risks identified at the local animal facility, University, or regional/provincial levels that need to be mitigated. Further updates will follow. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please forward them to acc.coordinator@utoronto.ca.

Best,

Dave

David Hanwell (he/him)

University Veterinarian and Director, Animal Ethics and Compliance

Research Oversight and Compliance Office (ROCO)

Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation

david.hanwell@utoronto.ca | (647) 700-8692

General inquiries: acc.coordinator@utoronto.ca 

The University of Toronto is open, but due to COVID-19, staff in the ROCO, Animal Ethics and Compliance Unit are working remotely to support operations as effectively as possible. Note that staff are not available to accept mail or courier deliveries. Please send items digitally or contact me to make alternative arrangements.

U of T COVID-19 Information

Research and Innovation COVID-19 Information

 

What’s New

OCTOBER 2021

Survey Monkey Results

Great feedback from those who completed the survey. Our goal is to make improvements to the newsletter to attract the attention of our users and ensure the content is relevant, and of interest to our audience.  A few changes we plan to implement include information about UTSC and UTM facilities and, dedicate 1-2 editions a year to rodent users only and to aquatic users only.

Equipment

ARIA TECH60D  
  • Primary containment device located in rat rooms in the RW.
  • Allows the possibility to work in two different configurations: class II biosafety cabinet (BS) and changing station (CS). 
  • The only cabinet/station designed for rat double-decker (DD) cages.
  • Features:
    1. Touch screen control panel
    2. The easy window opening by dedicated panel icon or foot switch and extra-wide working area for improved ergonomics.
    3. LED light bar with dimmer control; standard red LED lights for night mode in change station configuration. 

Calypso Aquatic Cabinet Washer  
  • Perfect removal of algae and biofilm without manual scrubbing or tank pre-treatment
  • Multiple rinses including final rinse with RO water guarantee precise cleaning
  • Fits in tight spaces due to the reduced operation footprint
  • Simplified utilities: No need for exhaust or compressed air

 

Researcher Newsbreak

OCTOBER 2021 – Video Roundup

The COVID-19 pandemic meant that seminars were moved online. One benefit is that we can re-watch them! Here are a couple recent ones:   

Why we lock doors

Locked doors can be a hassle. You need to remember your fob and if you are lucky enough to remember it, you then need to use it while juggling the pile of items you are carrying with you. It can be annoying! So, why do we lock the doors in the BSF?  

Ultimately, the locked doors are there to protect the animals and provide the BSF staff and the researchers the peace of mind knowing that we can work in a secure environment.  

The animals in the facility are our valuable research animals. They are a life and on top of that, we have invested part of our lives into caring for them and incorporating them into our research experiments. The locked doors help us do that. Here are a few scenarios how the locked doors do that: 

  • The locked doors prevent people who don’t know the BSF procedures from entering. All new BSF and CBTC users must first undergo an orientation with the BSF director, Christine McCaul. In this orientation, Christine outlines the personal protective equipment (PPE) and the work flow within the BSF. If someone enters without this orientation, they may, for example, walk into the dirty cage area and then into the clean cage area, thereby contaminating the clean cage area. Or, they may walk in from the alley, where they accidentally stepped in wild rat feces, and walk into a colony room without PPE, thereby exposing the animals to the pathogens in the wild rat feces. 
  • The locked doors prevent theft or damage to the animals or property. 
  • The locked doors minimize the amount of people walking around the facility which provides a quieter and more stable environment for our research animals.  

For these reasons, do not prop the doors open or allow people to “piggyback” in behind you. If someone you don’t know asks you to open the doors for them, politely tell them you are not allowed to or make an excuse such as, “I don’t have access to that area.”  

Do you have more questions about the security in the BSF? If so, reach out to one of the BSF staff members.  

 

Aquatics Project Update

There are several projects underway in the aquatics facility to safeguard the animals and research programs. 

  1. Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) installation 
    1. Will provide a continual power to the zebrafish labs to protect the equipment where an unexpected power disruption impacts the aquatic life support systems. The UPS will minimize adverse effects on animal welfare and protects the equipment in use from potential damage. 
    2. Installation completed September 2021 
  2. Backup Heat System 
    1. The loss of heat in the aquatics facility housing tropical fish can have detrimental effects on the fish and research programs. 
    2. Currently a backup heat system project is underway with a projected completion date for February 2022. The system will be designed to automatically turn on when there is a planned or unexpected disruption to the heat supply. 
    3. A meeting with aquatic users will be scheduled in November 2021. 
    4. Annual steam shutdown 
      1. The central steam plant performs a shutdown of the steam supply to U of T buildings to perform annual maintenance. 
      2. The shutdown impacts aquatic areas where tropical fish are housed which adversely effects the temperature of the macro and micro environments of the fish 
      3. Procedures are followed to maintain the environments however, the response has been inconsistent and often impacts the research program of the fish. 
      4. In 2017 the CCAC flagged the lack of back up heat as a significant finding. 
      5. Utilities is working to complete the installation of a backup heat system to the aquatics facility by end of Dec 2021 allowing the aquatics area to refrain from any impact on future steam shutdowns affecting the heat to these facilities.  
    5. Power shutdowns 
      1. Power loss impacts the heat supplied to aquatics areas therefore a backup heat system is an added protection from planned and unplanned power loss. 
       
  3. RW Dechlorinated Water System 
    1. Utilities is working on plans to replace the existing dechlorinated water system in the RW building. 
    2. The existing system is old and not suitable for current needs of users. 
    3. The system will remove chlorine, chloramines and other contaminants before supplying clean dechlorinated water to labs and facilities. 
    4. Consultation and design underway. 
    5. A meeting with users will be scheduled in the near future. 

Meet Lida Langroudi, a PhD student in Dr. Jennifer Mitchell’s lab!

Lida is interested in cell differentiation during embryonic development and how this occurs. Through her research, their team may have discovered a congenital disease. Such an amazing experience to have basic research suddenly have direct clinical implications! 

Here is a bit more about Lida and how she came to Jennifer Mitchell’s lab! 

What is your position in the lab?  

I’m a seventh-year PhD candidate in Dr. Jennifer Mitchell’s Lab. 

 What species do you work with?    

C57 and CD1 mice 

Where has your research taken you?  

My research has brought me to Canada! Intrigued by stem cell research, I joined the Mitchell Lab to pursue my passion abroad and to learn from top researchers in the field. During my graduate program at CSB, I was fortunate to present my work at international conferences such as International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR annual meeting-Melbourne, 2018) and 79th Society for Developmental Biology conference (Virtual, 2020), and national conferences such as Medicine by Design (Toronto, 2018) and 10th Canadian Developmental Biology Meeting (2020 – cancelled due to COVID19). Being able to participate in such events has broaden my horizons as to the potential use of stem cells and model organisms to recapitulate variety of diseases and provide hopes for treatment, as well as interacting with globally renowned researchers. This led to collaborative opportunities with extra-departmental research labs led by Dr. Phyllis Billia (UHN) and Prof. Andrea Jurisicova (LTRI) to accomplish our research goals. 

What drew you to pursue a career/education in research? 

Interestingly, my undergraduate program had no research component but during a seminar course we were given the option to present a research topic/paper. In preparation, I came across an article that discussed the potential of using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease. The flame of curiosity was ignited and since then, I’ve been exploring the molecular processes that define stem cell identity and these cells’ potential to form into different cell types. I believe, as we better understand how cell fates are determined in the context of normal developmental processes (like embryonic development), we can apply that knowledge for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of detrimental medical conditions.  

Have you made any discoveries that you weren’t expecting? 

Definitely. When I started my project, we were interested in understanding the role of Myelin Regulatory Factor (Myrf) in embryonic stem cell identity, maintenance, and differentiation. However, after establishing our mouse line, sporadic deaths in adult heterozygous mice (mice that carry a single copy of the gene) exhibited a reoccurring phenotype that may affect adult development. Necropsy examination of a few samples showed that these mice have smaller hearts than normal mouse hearts. And so, we pursued an analysis of this phenotype with our collaborators for cardiac assessments, which confirmed Myrf heterozygous mice have decreased heart function. Considering that at the same time reports of cardiac complications in human cases were being published was indicative of how our work can be used to understand such conditions. 

What are some challenges you have come across and/or overcome in your research? 

Having worked with mice and rat subjects prior to my PhD gave me confidence to believe I can manage any unexpected results in future mouse projects. However, establishing our animal colony and modes of assessment for embryonic lethality was not an easy task. Based on our preliminary data using mouse embryonic stem cells, we anticipated a completely different time and cause of lethality which meant our initial hypothesis required modification and new lines of investigation. Such challenges are very common and can happen to any investigator at any time during their research, however it is also an opportunity to test new theories. Pursuing our new trajectories has opened new possibilities that were not only interesting at first but also more accurately in line with human cases pointing towards a new congenital disease never reported before. Overall, this proved a very educational experience.  

Tell us about your research and any ongoing studies or projects.    

In most multicellular organisms, life begins with a single cell (zygote) and that single cell divides and differentiates to a myriad of different cell types which form a full functioning organism. The genomic/DNA content of all cells are the same but the way which the genetic code is read and interpreted is different according to cell type. In my research, I’ve explored the role of a Myrf in mouse embryonic development. As the name implies, this transcription factor is crucial for central nervous system myelination. However, Myrf is expressed during embryonic development and myelination occurs after birth which indicates a broader regulatory role for the gene than previously thought. Using a mouse model, I’ve confirmed that loss of Myrf (Myrf-Null) can lead to embryonic death at embryonic day 11 (Figure). Furthermore, the absence of Myrf can cause developmental delay, suggesting a fundamental role for Myrf at the molecular level. We are currently exploring these possibilities using both in vitro and in vivo approaches to elucidate the molecular mechanism causing embryonic lethality.  

Starting Research

New User Registration  

You will be required to complete the following prior to facility access:  

  1. You will need to be added as an animal user to the Animal Use Protocol (AUP) by your principal investigator/supervisor. Please ensure that you have received a copy for review.  
  2. Obtain a fob from your department.   
  3. Complete the EHS Respiratory Protection training and N95 respirator fit-testing. Visit: Respiratory Protection Training and Fit-Testing   
  4. Visit the BSF website, complete and submit the following forms:  
    1. New User Registration/Orientation Request @  Register Now 
    2. Facility Access Request @ Facility Access Form 
  5. You will be required to complete the following training modules:  
    1.  Ethics module (must be completed prior to orientation)   
    2. Species-specific module (i.e. mouse, rat)    
    3. Anesthesia/Surgery module – if you will perform any anesthesia or surgical procedures.    
    4. Containment Level 2 (CL2) module – if you will be working with biological hazards.  
    5. Chemical module – if you will be working with chemicals.  

    You may register/access at https://dcm.utoronto.ca/training.   

    *Fish users are required to complete the U of T Fish module. Contact ACC Coordinator for course material. 

  6. Read the relevant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

    1. SOPs provide detailed, step-by-step descriptions/instructions of how to use equipment commonly found in animal facilities or how to perform common experimental techniques and husbandry procedures. 
    2. SOPs are managed by the Animal Ethics & Compliance Unit (AECU), developed with input from facility staff, veterinarians, and research staff, and are reviewed regularly. 
    3. Visit Ethics in Animal Research & Teaching: Repository of SOPs, Guidelines, and Forms – Home (sharepoint.com)  
                                            
  7. You will automatically be subscribed to the facility listserv & newsletter.  Important information and notices will be shared via the listserv. It is important to read the emails.
  8. You will receive emails containing important information from the ACC Coordinator. It is important to read all the emails.
  9. Ensure that you are familiar with and will adhere to U of T’s general COVID-19 prevention measures, self-screen practices, the mask/face covering Policy and Guideline, and any other protocols within your lab and the vivarium.
  10. Welcome, learn, have fun and remember, the BSF team is here for support.

Environmental Enrichment for Laboratory Animals

Environmental conditions such as housing and husbandry have a major impact on the laboratory animal throughout its life and will thereby influence the outcome of animal experiments. However, housing systems for laboratory animals have often been designed on the basis oeconomic (minimal use of space and resources), and ergonomic (reduction of variation) aspects. 

One possible way to improve the living conditions of laboratory animals is to provide opportunities for the animals to perform a species-specific behavioral repertoire.  

Rats and mice perform an increased range of behaviors, such as hiding, climbing, and foraging1. Semi-aquatic turtles, such as painted turtles or red-eared sliders, require both water and land areas in their enclosures. Turtles, being reptiles, are ectothermic; therefore, proper heat and UVB light are extremely important for their general health. Basking strengthens a turtle’s shell and reduces algae growth on its shell5 

 Environmental enrichment should be regarded both as an essential component of the overall animal care program and equally important as nutrition and veterinary care (Vera Baumans). 

According to the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, there are key features that contribute to environmental enrichment 3,4: 

  • Group housing of compatible animals 
  • Providing animals with sensory and motor stimulation 
  • Promoting species-specific behaviors 
  • Providing animals with a means for control over their environment (e.g., nest-building materials, hiding places) 
  • Novel items (e.g., toys, special food treats) 
  • Opportunity for exercise (e.g., running wheels, climbing structures) 

FIGURE 1. In an enriched environment, mice will divide their cage space into zones, including a latrine area, a nest, and clean activity areas1. 

FIGURE 2. ‘Nestlets’ are pre-sterilized pieces of compressed cotton fibers. Rodents will tease them apart and use them to form a nest1. (Image courtesy of Plexx BV, Netherlands)  

FIGURE 3. The ‘Mouse House’ or ‘Mouse Igloo’  is a cage insert molded of autoclave safe, transparent red plastic. Since mice see red as black, the Mouse House is a dark place for them to rest and hide1. (Image courtesy of Tecniplast, Buguggiate, Italy.) 

 

 FIGURE 4. The ‘Shepherd Shack’ is cage insert composed of autoclavable paper. Mice can shred it and use the paper for nest building1.  

FIGURE 5. Running wheels promote voluntary activity in mice. It increases physical and cognitive activity, reducing anxiety in mice. (Image courtesy of Tecniplast, Buguggiate, Italy.)  

FIGURE 6: Turtles can be housed in a variety of environments depending on research requirements; however, housing should meet following criteria5 

  • Whenever possible, turtles should be group-housed.
  • Tanks should be large enough to allow ample swimming space. 
  • Tanks should have enough water so that the largest turtle can fully submerge. 
  • Tanks should include an area where turtles can haul out of the water and bask. 
  • Basking lights should be provided.

 

  1. Environmental Enrichment Options for Laboratory Rats and Mice, David Key, FIAT.
  2. Mouse & Rat Husbandry Procedures, SOP 5.11.0 
  3. IACUC Policy on Animal Housing and Enrichment. Accessed: May 1, 2019.
  4. Committee for the Update of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals; National Research Council. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: Eighth Edition; 2010.
  5. Turtle Care and Husbandry (BSF), SOP 5.31.5 

Guppies 

  • Adding live plants to guppy fish tanks can help eliminate toxic waste and provide hiding places for baby guppies.  
  • Duckweed thrives in nearly any aquarium, and in most cases experiences explosive growth. It has a well-deserved reputation for reducing algae growth and helps clean and purify the tank water. 

           

Goldfish 

  • Plants help to emulate the natural habitat of the fish. 
  • Plants provide a shelter. 
  • Plastic aquarium plants are very easy to obtain and maintain while providing adequate hiding space. 

  

 

 

The Animal Ethics and Compliance Unit (AECU) has launched a SOPs, Guidelines and Forms SharePoint site pertaining to animal use at the University.

Ethics in Animal Research & Teaching: Repository of SOPs, Guidelines, and Forms – Home (sharepoint.com) 

This website format allows for improved search ability of documents compared to the old site.  Key features that improve search ability include:  

  • SharePoint ‘clickable’ category icons to narrow search (e.g., SOP, Form, Animal Type)  
  • Search bar (top of page) for keywords (including within documents)  
  • It is recommended that you bookmark this site.   
  • Users must sign in using their valid UTORID to access this site.   
  • There is a page in the site entitled “**How to use this site” (found at the bottom of the homepage) that explains how to use different searching and sorting functions to easily find documents.   
  • Users only have access to the “Approved Documents” pages and not the “Source” (working/draft) pages as those are restricted for the facilities/vets/AECU to access only.