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veterinary medicine

Renewed vivarium

Small company launches compact environment for laboratory animals

eduardo cesarPanel facilitates the control over the conditions of temperature and lighting insideeduardo cesar

Scientific research with small animals has gained a new environment for study, a micro-environmental cabinet that can even be used in the researcher’s room. Conceived and built with the objective of creating the ideal conditions for animal research in the laboratory, the Environs, which is the product’s commercial name, ensures the maintenance conditions of temperature, humidity, lighting, sanitary control and of the photoperiod, – process that imitates the variation of light at night and in the daytime -, for the development of the animal.

It was designed with standard measurements of 2 meters in height, 1.45 meters in length and 0.71 meters in width. Its dimensions are compatible with the accesses to the laboratories, and require the least possible physical adaptations to the vivariums.

Supported by FAPESP under the Program for Technological Innovation in Small Companies (PIPE), the project was conceived and coordinated by Habib Guy Nahas, a director of HVAC Tecnologia em Sistemas Ambientais. According to Nahas, the conception of the micro-environmental took into account the ideal recommendations for the animals’ welfare and international technical standards that guarantee the reliability of the scientific research results. Chief among them is the fact that they are totally closed, which lessens external sounds and noises, a cause of stress in the animals. Environs’ launching is expected to take place before the end of February.

The first prototypes were ordered from HVAC five years ago, by a group of researchers from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechny of the University of São Paulo (USP), under the coordination of Professor José Luis Merusse, from the Pathology Department. This prototype was mentioned in the conclusions of works for master’s and doctor’s degrees under Merusse’s supervision.

In these studies, it was proved that the concentration of ammonia in the micro-environmental system is lower than in conventional systems, even with greater intervals between changing the bedding, for cleaning. The lower level of ammonia and the low levels of humidity in the micro-environmental system kept the animals’ lungs in a perfect condition, as the researchers from USP attested. In the conventional systems, the presence of bronchitis and chronic pneumonia is common.

Another result confirmed the efficiency of the system. “Mice mated and kept in a micro-environmental system with a 14-day interval for changing the bedding showed no physical difference, when compared with similar groups kept in conventional vivariums, including their sanitary conditions”, says Nahas. While the results were being corroborated in the laboratory, he presented the project to PIPE, which made it possible to continue the development of the product and the construction of two new prototypes.

Mice population
When closed, the micro-environmental cabinet is similar to an industrial refrigerator, with a double door. At the top, there are indicators of temperature, humidity, pressure and lighting that allow the researcher to control the environmental conditions inside. When opened, it can hold 30 boxes that take between 150 and 180 mice, with a feed box attached. And it can be adapted for experiments with other small animals.

In Nahas’s assessment, the system offers advantages over conventional vivariums, besides the control of humidity and temperature. These include diluting ammonia vapors effectively, with the guarantee of there being no mixture and interchange of the flow of air, diminishing the possibility of cross contamination of the animals. According to him, the fact that the equipment is rigorously closed makes it possible to pressurize the environment, so not letting the air out and avoiding contamination of the area outside the cabinet.

Another positive factor is the internal lighting of the micro-environment, in blue and amber coloring, designed so as not to offend the animals’ eyes. “We have managed a lighting system without glare and low levels of luminosity”, explains the project’s coordinator. According to Nahas, Environs means low operating costs for vivariums and laboratories, since the handling of the animals, which in conventional vivariums is done with a three-day frequency, can be done every 15 days. This means savings in the quantity 222 of shavings (the wood chips used to cover the floor of the boxes), in the consumption of electricity and water and particularly in hiring labor.

Celebration now
Nahas is looking forward to the imminent launching of the project. “I want to celebrate the end of the project and tell everybody that it is now available for purchase”. Besides presenting Environs to the scientific community at universities and research institutes, Nahas is also planning visits to pharmaceutical laboratories and industries. Almost 35 years of experience was important for Nahas to plot HVAC business course.

A physicist and a post-graduate in nuclear engineering, he has worked in companies in the environmental acclimatization business, and coordinated acclimatization projects on oil platforms for Petrobras, besides having supplied services for chemical and electrical/electronic industries and for laboratories. This knowledge was fundamental when he founded HVAC, 20 years ago. At present, the company is dedicated to acclimatization in university laboratories and in chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The most recent project was developed for the Public Archives of the State of São Paulo, where acclimatization systems were installed, to help with the preservation of photos, drawings, documents and maps, some of them 200 years old.

According to Nahas, the company’s sales in 2001 came close to R$ 500,000, a little less than the R$ 700,000 registered in 2000. He says that last year was not typical. From June onwards, there was a decrease in the use of electricity for the purposes of acclimatization and refrigeration, which also had an influence of company earnings from equipment maintenance.

For this year, the company is planning to work on another project, the air-conditioning system that goes with Environs, which will cost R$ 350,000 in the prototype stage. According to Nahas, the apparatus consists of a supercompact air conditioner, with digital controls. “This way, we will be able to offer a complete acclimatization system for the laboratory, since the control the refrigeration system where Environs is going to be installed is also important to reach ideal conditions for research”, he says.

Production and research
Still without a sales price for Environs, Nahas hopes to make ten cabinets a month. “If I have to increase production to one hundred apparatuses a month, for example, then I will have to look for financial assistance in the market, whether through an injection of venture capital, a partnership, or from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES).” The chances for vigorous production are good. “This kind of equipment does not even exist abroad”. All this gives Nahas very good commercial expectations, and the prospects for the areas of biological and pharmaceutical sciences are for more efficient, rapid and safe research.

The Project
Technological Development of Micro-Environmental Systems for Vivariums for the Creating, Keeping and Experimenting on Small Animals (nº 97/07232-0); Modality Program for Technological Innovation in Small Companies (PIPE); Coordinator Habib Guy Nahas – HVAC; Investment R$ 249,250.00