Background: Rabbits are widely used in biomedical research and especially as animal models in atherosclerosis studies. Blood biochemistry is used to monitor progression of disease, before final evaluation including pathology of arteries and organs. The aim of the present study was to assess the consistency of the biochemical profile of New Zealand White rabbits on standard diet from 3 to 6 months of age, during which they are often used experimentally.
Methods and results: Eight conventional male 3-month-old New Zealand White rabbits were used. Blood samples were taken at baseline, 1, 2 and 3 months later. Plasma glucose, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triacylglycerol concentrations, and alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, gamma glutamyl transferase activities and malondialdehyde were measured. Statistically significant time-related changes were observed in glucose, total cholesterol and triacylglycerol, which were not correlated with aortic lesions at 6 months of age. Similarly, hepatic enzyme activity had significant time-related changes, without a corresponding liver pathology.
Conclusions: Age progression and stress due to single housing may be the underlying reasons for these biochemistry changes. These early changes, indicative of metabolic alterations, should be taken into account even in short-term lipid/atherosclerosis studies, where age and standard diet are not expected to have an effect on the control group of a study.