Development of Individual Chambers for Alcohol Delivery

Period of Performance: 09/28/1998 - 03/31/1999


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

LA Jolla Alcohol Research, Inc.
San Diego, CA 92107
Principal Investigator


At present, investigators who want to expose laboratory rodents to alcohol can inject the drug, feed it through a chocolate-base diet, or deliver it in contained chambers in the form of vapors. Currently available alcohol chambers contain several cages which each house 3-6 rodents. The purpose of this Phase I feasibility study is to show that we can build smaller chambers in which laboratory rodents (primarily rats or mice) are exposed to alcohol vapors under tightly controlled conditions. The proposed chambers will house 1-4 rats or 3-6 mice, depending on weights. This prototype has two main advantages over presently available methods. First, each chamber can be individually controlled, which means that target blood alcohol levels (BALs) can be finely regulated. Second, the animals can be equipped with permanent intravenous or intracerebroventricular cannulae to samples biological fluids and/or inject treatments without manipulating the animals or opening the chambers. Over the past 8 months, we have built 6 such cages to demonstrate that most of the problems encountered should be solvable, provided we have the appropriate resources. These problems include the presence of condensation, the maintenance of environmentally safe chambers (i.e. from which no alcohol vapors, escape) despite the presence of portholes for the passage of the cannulae, and the adequacy of standard air sources commonly available in the laboratory to propel the alcohol vapors through the system. The objectives that need to be reached under Phase I are (1) to automate the system, which is presently cumbersome and labor-intensive, (2) to bring the problem of condensation to its final solution, (3) to ensure that the final parameters of air velocity do not lead to the release of ACTH and corticosterone, taken as indexes of stress, and (4) to demonstrate that the prototype can be extended to at least 12 chambers. Once the prototype is finalized, the investigator will be provided with a pre-assembled set of cages with all necessary components, and charts that will enable him/her to reach the target BALs on the basis of the animal's weight The long-term commercial objectives, however, are to build a system that can be used not only to deliver alcohol, but also toxic substances that need to be contained, such as nicotine, carcinogens, etc. We therefore believe that the prototype for which we want to demonstrate feasibility, will be attractive to a wide variety of researchers who need environmentally safe and easy to use devices to study the effects of these substances. PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: On the basis of numerous conversations with colleagues, as well as our own experience in the field, we have no doubt that such a device would find a ready market and thus have excellent commercial potential. There are many investigators who expose rodents to alcohol, and all those who do not require voluntary drug intake will welcome an easy-to-use, reliable, flexible and affordable device to do so, which does not require extensive labor. In addition, this technology can be used to expose animals to reagents other than alcohol, that need to be contained such as nicotine, carcinogens, pollutants, potential irritants, etc. This provides a major advance in the field of toxicology.