Introduction: Many factors alter gastrointestinal transit. Animal models are useful for preclinical studies of gastrointestinal transit, but terminal methods do not allow later study, and stressful assessment methods will likely alter the transit of the animal. To overcome these factors, we developed a new method to assay rat total gastrointestinal transit.
Methods: Standard plastic cages with their bottoms cut off were placed on wire mesh floors. Custom apparatuses were built to contain fecal pellets as they fell through the floors. Webcams connected to a computer running a security program were placed to image the pellets at regular intervals. Custom food was obtained with and without blue pigment. After habituating to the cages and the non-pigmented food, the pigmented food was administered. The duration to the appearance of the first pigmented pellet was determined by reviewing the photographs. This duration represents the complete gastrointestinal behavior, including feeding. We compared 24-hour fecal pellet counts using images to counts by visual inspection, and also made hourly counts. After establishing baseline transit times and hourly fecal pellet discharge, rats were given buprenorphine, known to alter gastrointestinal transit. Transit times and hourly discharge were obtained again and compared to the baselines.
Results: The methods were successful in determining transit times. Baseline measures were consistent between three groups of 8 rats. Visual and image-based counts were highly correlated. Transit times and hourly pellet discharge were reduced by buprenorphine.
Discussion: The described method offers a relatively simple, inexpensive, and non-invasive means to measure rat gastrointestinal behaviour. The method has potential for any studies where altered total gastrointestinal transit is an experimental concern.
Bove, Geoffrey M., "A Non-invasive Method To Evaluate Gastrointestinal Transit Behaviour In Rat" (2015). Biomedical Sciences Faculty Publications. 7.