Animal Physiology

How does the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin, shot up the nose, affect the cardiovascular system?

Have you ever wondered how we develop medical treatments for veterinary and human use? Well, it all starts with non-human animal studies, where we can really test cause and effect when we apply potential drugs for human diseases. For example, oxytocin, the ‘cuddle hormone’, is being tested in obese and psychiatric patients, to see if it reduces their cravings and other negative behaviours. However, it isn’t being given as a pill or an injection, instead, it is being shot up the patient’s nose, like a decongestant! This allows the hormone to directly reach the brain and work its magic there.

Come join us and help determine if oxytocin is safe for use in patients with high blood pressure. Together, we may save some lives!

Supervisors: Dr Lisa Chilton and Dr Rober Kinobe

What you will be doing?

We will test the effect of nasally applied oxytocin on cardiovascular function in a rat model of high blood pressure. As part of this project, you will:

  • consider ethical and moral use of rats and other non-human animals in primary medical research
  • learn rat handling and husbandry, as well as study normal rat behaviour
  • take blood pressure and record ECGs
  • train rats to accept nasal dosing while working out what food reward they like the best

Scientific Research paper:

Phie et al. 2015, Prolonged Subcutaneous Administration of Oxytocin Accelerates Angiotensin II-induced Hypertension and Renal Damage in Male Rats PLoS One 10(9):e0138048. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0138048

Training Videos

Truth about rats: rat tricks

Instruction on training pet rats using food reward method

Mouse blood pressure using tail-cuff method

Measured using the volume-pressure recording (VPR), tail-cuff method

Anatomy and physiology online

Understanding the cardiac conduction system and its relationship with ECG

Cardiac conduction system animation

Understanding the cardiac conduction system and its relationship with ECG