An open-source, lockable mouse wheel for the accessible implementation of time- and distance-limited elective exercise

PLoS One. 2021 Dec 21;16(12):e0261618. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261618. eCollection 2021.


Current methods of small animal exercise involve either voluntary (wheel running) or forced (treadmill running) protocols. Although commonly used, each have several drawbacks which cause hesitancy to adopt these methods. While mice will instinctively run on a wheel, the distance and time spent running can vary widely. Forced exercise, while controllable, puts animals in stressful environments in which they are confined and often shocked for "encouragement." Additionally, both methods require expensive equipment and software, which limit these experiments to well-funded laboratories. To counter these issues, we developed a non-invasive mouse running device aimed to reduce handler-induced stress, provide time- and distance-based stopping conditions, and enable investigators with limited resources to easily produce and use the device. The Lockable Open-Source Training-Wheel (LOST-Wheel) was designed to be 3D printed on any standard entry-level printer and assembled using a few common tools for around 20 USD. It features an on-board screen and is capable of tracking distances, running time, and velocities of mice. The LOST-Wheel overcomes the largest drawback to voluntary exercise, which is the inability to control when and how long mice run, using a servo driven mechanism that locks and unlocks the running surface according to the protocol of the investigator. While the LOST-Wheel can be used without a computer connection, we designed an accompanying application to provide scientists with additional analyses. The LOST-Wheel Logger, an R-based application, displays milestones and plots on a user-friendly dashboard. Using the LOST-Wheel, we implemented a timed running experiment that showed distance-dependent decreases in serum myostatin as well as IL-6 gene upregulation in muscle. To make this device accessible, we are releasing the designs, application, and manual in an open-source format. The implementation of the LOST-Wheel and future iterations will improve upon existing murine exercise equipment and research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / instrumentation*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / methods
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / statistics & numerical data
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Running / physiology
  • Running / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors


  • RNA