DNA DAMAGE AS A POTENTIAL NON-INVASIVE INDICATOR OF WELFARE IN ZOO-HOUSED GRIZZLY BEARS
Animal wellbeing is evaluated through welfare indicators like animal nutrition, health and behavioral interactions and measurement of metabolic hormones. Fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FMG) represent an integrated measure of glucocorticoid activity and have been increasingly used to evaluate animal welfare as a non-invasive method. In their recent study conducted on zoo-housed grizzly bears, ISWE member Grace Fuller et al. (2021) looked at a potential correlation between FMG concentrations, 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) concentrations and social behavior. 8-OHdG, a byproduct of DNA damage, allows for measurement of oxidative damage, and with FMG, has the potential to indicate welfare.
Using the ISWE-Exclusive Cortisol ELISA Mini-Kit (ISWE002) available through the partnership between Arbor Assays and ISWE, fecal samples were assayed for FGMs. To assess DNA damage, researchers used the Arbor Assays fecal extraction protocol and the samples were assayed using the DetectX® DNA Damage ELISA Kit (K059-H1/H5). The assay recognizes three oxidized guanine species: 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine from DNA, 8-hydroxyguanosine from RNA and 8-hydroxyguanine from digested DNA.
The results showed a strong correlation between daily values of FMGs and 8-OHdG, reinforcing the hypothesis that adrenal activity contributes to oxidative stress and subsequent DNA damage. However, other findings from the study need to be interpreted with caution, as some of the parameters could be optimized in future studies. Because the aim of this experiment was to identify areas of potential significance for further study, the authors insist on the need to conduct further validation studies identifying the relationship between oxidative stress and animal welfare.
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