Animal Phenotyping Herz

Animal Phenotyping

Arnd Heuser


Our platform provides a large set of validated approaches for investigating physiological and morphological characteristics in mice and rats and screening for phenotypic variations. This gives researchers an important resource for studying animal disease models.

Despite numerous advances in research techniques, such as in vitro methods and advanced computer modeling which avoid the use of animals, there is still a need in preclinical research to study the morphological, physiological, metabolic or behavioral characteristics – the phenotype – of animals. Such a holistic approach to health and disease provides data that would otherwise not be available. Specifically, animal phenotyping allows researchers to gain a better understanding of the complex interactions between the cardiovascular, respiratory, and central nervous systems, which is critical for the development of many human pharmaceuticals and therapies.

Studying model animals in non-invasive ways

A comprehensive collection of tools for physiological and morphological assessment

The Animal Phenotyping Platform at the Max Delbrück Center houses a comprehensive collection of tools for physiological and morphological assessment of experimental mice and rats. We focus on techniques which minimize animal use and enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals or to obtain more information from the same number of animals.

Using a wide variety of preclinical imaging techniques – such as high-frequency ultrasound, photoacoustic imaging, micro-computed tomography, quantitative bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging, and time-domain nuclear magnetic resonance imaging – allows researchers to characterize disease progression and ascertain therapeutic effects throughout the entire experimental period.

Additionally, we use various non-invasive in vivo examinations which allow physiological, metabolic, and bioelectrical variables to be monitored in conscious animals (e.g., blood pressure and heart rate measurements, electrocardiography, and respiratory analysis). We provide state-of-the-art services, innovative techniques, and helpful advice on pathophysiological questions to both experienced and novice investigators.

A holistic approach to functional genomics

The Max Delbrück Center is currently building a dedicated facility for in vivo pathophysiology experiments (the In Vivo Pathophysiology Laboratory) to promote preclinical translational research and functional genomics. Our platform will pool and further improve well-established phenotyping approaches, ensuring the highest technological and quality standards.

We will give investigators the capacity to accurately assess developmental, behavioral, cardiovascular, and metabolic characteristics in rodent disease models over long periods of time and to sensitively screen for phenotypic variations. The planned laboratory is expected to have multiple benefits for researchers at the Max Delbrück Center as well as for collaborating external scientists.

Our tools

  • High-frequency ultrasound (US)
  • Photoacoustic imaging (PAI)
  • Micro-computed tomography (µCT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Multiphoton intravital microscopy
  • Metabolic phenotyping
  • Clinical chemistry
  • Clinical hematology
  • Functional hemodynamics
  • Body composition analysis
  • Behavioral Tests
  • Electrocardiography (ECG)
  • Blood pressure measurements
  • Respiratory analysis
  • Bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging



Animal Experiment License application

Animal experiments should be accompanied by a consultation of the Animal Phenotyping Platform staff. This counselling will ensure the selection of the best phenotyping techniques for your experiment. For a meeting with the Animal Phenotyping Platform staff please call or send us an email.

Animal experiments on vertebrates and cephalopods are required to be approved by the authorities. Therefore the consideration of animal welfare and the 3R principle (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) is an important point in our work.

We offer to support you in:

  • Writing animal experiment license applications according to the legal requirements
  • Writing applications in German (important for English speaking groups)
  • Development of project plans
  • Finding randomization procedures
  • Biometrical planning of the experiments

Writing an application for animal experiments is the first step to perform animal experiments. For inexperienced persons, this will need a lot of effort and time and thus delay the experimental progress. Writing of these applications, which must be German, is difficult enough for native speakers, but even more so for non-native speakers.

The Animal Phenotyping Platform supports all groups of the MDC in the efficient and fast development of applications for animal experiments. In addition to the formal and legal aspects, the Animal Phenotyping Platform counsels the scientists in planning, calculating animal numbers, possibilities of further qualification and exchange of know-how with other groups. Communication and drafts can be done in English, therefore the application is easier to manage for all English-speaking groups.

Please note that the Animal Phenotyping Platform cannot take responsibility for the applications. It is the groups’ own responsibility to qualify the staff for the position of the responsible manager and deputy manager of the project.

Both the Animal Phenotyping Platform and animal welfare officers work closely together to ensure your support. The work of the Animal Phenotyping Platform does not replace the assessment by the animal welfare officers. All applications and correspondence with the authorities still have to be discussed with, proof read by and submitted through the animal welfare officers. However, up to this point the Animal Phenotyping Platform supports you in every step of the application.