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A pilot study to establish a new tool to investigate motor skills in SMA mouse models

In this pilot study, Dr Bowerman will aim to establish new tools for assessing mobility skills that can pick up even small but highly important differences in movement, in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) mouse models.
Principal Investigator
Dr Melissa Bowerman
Keele University
Official title
Pilot study: Using deep neural networks to establish a novel non-invasive and sensitive motor skill assessment tool for pre-clinical mouse models of muscle-wasting conditions
12 months
Total cost


Finding treatments for various conditions generally involves testing therapies in an animal model, most commonly in mice. Specifically, for muscle-wasting conditions, motor skills are monitored to help understand how the muscles and nerves are working. This approach, however, comes with disadvantages – often the researchers need to use electrodes to measure the motor skills, which is invasive. Dr Bowerman aims to overcome this by using user-friendly, free-to-use computer software that has previously been developed by others. The software visualises, records and interprets the movement of animals. This research will develop and optimise tests, which should ultimately allow for monitoring and the analysis of the movement and behaviour of mice in their natural environment.

What are the aims of the project?

The main aim of this research project is to evaluate the sensitivity and potential of the software in mouse models of muscle-wasting conditions, which should prove valuable for the future evaluation of the effectiveness of treatments.

Why is this research important?

This research aims to develop a non-invasive and sensitive test that will provide the accurate measurement of movement of muscle-wasting mouse models. The test should be sensitive enough to pick up small differences in movement between mice with the condition and healthy mice, as well as mice that are treated and untreated with a particular therapy. This would improve the assessment of drugs in mouse models before moving on to the patient studies.

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