Refinement of the Charcoal Meal Study by Reduction of the Fasting Period
Helen Prior, Lorna Ewart, Jonathan Bright and Jean-Pierre Valentin
The aim of this investigation was to determine whether a shorter fasting period than the one historically employed for the charcoal meal test, could be used when measuring gastric emptying and intestinal transit within the same animal, and to ascertain whether the scientific outcome would be affected by this benefit to animal welfare. Rats and mice were fasted for 0, 3, 6 or 18 hours before the oral administration of vehicle or atropine. One hour later, the animals were orally administered a charcoal meal, then 20 minutes later, they were killed and the stomach and small intestine were removed. Intestinal transit time (the position of the charcoal front as a percentage of the total length of the small intestine) and relative gastric emptying (weight of stomach contents) were measured. Rats and mice fasted for six hours showed results for gastric emptying and intestinal transit which were similar to those obtained in animals fasted for 18 hours. Reducing the fasting period reduced the body weight loss in both species, and mice on shorter fasts could be group-housed, as hunger-induced fighting was lessened. Therefore, a fasting period of six hours was subsequently adopted for charcoal meal studies at our institution.