A low cost, simplified, and scaleable pneumotachograph and face mask for neonatal mouse respiratory measurements

J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2017 Jul:86:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2017.02.019. Epub 2017 Feb 15.


Introduction: Neonatal respiratory disorders are a leading cause of perinatal mortality due to complications resulting from premature births and prenatal exposure to drugs of abuse, but optimal treatments for these symptoms are still unclear due to a variety of confounds and risk factors. Mouse models present an opportunity to study the underlying mechanisms and efficacy of potential treatments of these conditions with controlled variables. However, measuring respiration in newborn mice is difficult and commercial components are expensive and often require modification, creating a barrier and limiting our understanding of the short and long-term effects of birth complications on respiratory function.

Methods: Here, we present an inexpensive and simple flow through pneumotachograph and face mask design that can be easily scaled for parallel, high-throughput assays measuring respiration in neonatal mouse pups. The final apparatus consists of three main parts: a water-jacketed chamber, an integrated support tray for the pup, and a pneumotachograph consisting of a two side-arm air channel that is attached to a pressure transducer.

Results: The pneumotach showed a linear response and clean, steady respiratory traces in which apneas and sighs were clearly visible. Administration of caffeine in P0.5 CD1 wildtype neonates resulted in an increase in tidal volume, minute ventilation, and minute ventilation normalized to oxygen consumption as well as a decrease in periodic instability.

Discussion: The described methods offer a relatively simple and inexpensive approach to constructing a pneumotachograph for non-invasive measurements of neonatal mouse respiration, enhancing accessibility and enabling the high-throughput and parallel characterizations of neonatal respiratory disorders and potential pharmacological therapies.

Keywords: Breathing; Caffeine (PubChem ID:2519); Mouse; Neonate; Newborn abstinence syndrome; Newborns; Plethysmography; Pneumotach; Respiration; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology*
  • Apnea / diagnosis
  • Apnea / physiopathology
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Masks
  • Mice
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death
  • Tidal Volume
  • Transducers, Pressure


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine