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PLoS One. 2013 May 3;8(5):e62628. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062628. Print 2013.

A simple and novel method to monitor breathing and heart rate in awake and urethane-anesthetized newborn rodents.

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  • 1Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany. Zehendner@uni-mainz.de


Rodents are most useful models to study physiological and pathophysiological processes in early development, because they are born in a relatively immature state. However, only few techniques are available to monitor non-invasively heart frequency and respiratory rate in neonatal rodents without restraining or hindering access to the animal. Here we describe experimental procedures that allow monitoring of heart frequency by electrocardiography (ECG) and breathing rate with a piezoelectric transducer (PZT) element without hindering access to the animal. These techniques can be easily installed and are used in the present study in unrestrained awake and anesthetized neonatal C57/Bl6 mice and Wistar rats between postnatal day 0 and 7. In line with previous reports from awake rodents we demonstrate that heart rate in rats and mice increases during the first postnatal week. Respiratory frequency did not differ between both species, but heart rate was significantly higher in mice than in rats. Further our data indicate that urethane, an agent that is widely used for anesthesia, induces a hypoventilation in neonates whilst heart rate remains unaffected at a dose of 1 g per kg body weight. Of note, hypoventilation induced by urethane was not detected in rats at postnatal 0/1. To verify the detected hypoventilation we performed blood gas analyses. We detected a respiratory acidosis reflected by a lower pH and elevated level in CO2 tension (pCO2) in both species upon urethane treatment. Furthermore we found that metabolism of urethane is different in P0/1 mice and rats and between P0/1 and P6/7 in both species. Our findings underline the usefulness of monitoring basic cardio-respiratory parameters in neonates during anesthesia. In addition our study gives information on developmental changes in heart and breathing frequency in newborn mice and rats and the effects of urethane in both species during the first postnatal week.

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