Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Narrow Vision Doesn't Help Anybody

Yesterday I found a very interesting article discussing that mice have turned into a poor model system for experimentation full article here.  They don't disregard that mice have led to some amazing advancements in science, but at the end of the day mice aren't genetically identical to humans.  Throughout the years, mice have become the predominant lab animal, they make up 59% of lab animal volume.  That is more than all other animals used, rat, fish, birds, primates, and so on combined.  Mice have become the predominant animals for experimentation for several reasons, they're easy to breed, they're small enough that fed and space isn't a big issue, they're also relatively easy to handle.  Scientists have diagnosed the mouse genome to death.  They can knock out, add, alter almost any gene to express whatever behavior they want.  But back to my original point, mice aren't humans...  Over time scientists have yet to cure many diseases in humans yet their treatments have a very high success rate on mice?  Why is this?  One scientist believes it is because mice are kept in a very sedentary lifestyle, they sit in their cage for days on end.  When mice were exercised vigorously and put on a restricted diet many treatments that previously were successful failed. 

My biggest issue with using mice as the mass model organism is it limits creativity.  No longer are people thinking out of the box.  Unfortunately this leads to another problem I really don't have a solution.  Using primates as the new mass model organism would seem like an option.   Their genetic make-up that is closer to humans, but having large amounts of primates really it isn't feasible due to the much higher maintenance costs and it takes a lot longer to breed enough.  The general public also has a much bigger moral issue with using primates and other non-rodent or fish animals. 

Personally I'm not against animal experimentation for scientific means.  I don't condone animal experimentation for cosmetics or trivial reasons (yes that is a blurry line).  I see animal experimentation as a necessary evil.  Proper avenues should be carried out with experimentation starting on simple organisms like cells and bacteria and slowly worked up until the human phase.  My first job out of college was working for a clinical trials group.  It was highly monitored and every effect of the drug both good and bad was closely monitored and recorded.  Patient safety was always the number one priority.  Our group helped many people and had great success.  Now back to the original problem.  Mice have severed their purpose as the model organism the advancements have slowed and people have gotten far too comfortable with mice.  But, what do we do now?  The truth is I don't know, but I am sure we need to open our eyes and start thinking outside the box again.  As always I would love your feedback and thoughts of all types.
That's it for now,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dissapearing Act... The Rhino

Saw a sad article today: that Africa's Western Black Rhino has been declared extinct.  It hurts for two reasons, the first being I have always loved rhino's, they are such an amazing unique creature.  The second being that this was another reminder that animals species are going extinct everyday.  Many of the larger species get noticed when they are on the decline simply due to their size, but species of all sizes are going extinct daily.  I'm not writing this to depress you but more as a call to action.  I'm including another link to a list of some species we have lost in the past 40 years and ways to prevent more species from disappearing forever:

Now, for your weekly dose of animal facts.  Rhino's have a human cause for their decline, they are hunted for their horns.  Some cultures believe their horns have medicinal and aphrodisiac properties.  To cut down on poaching in many areas rhinos have had their horns removed.  A rhino's horn consists of keratin only and do not have a bony core like cows horns.  Keratin makes up the outer layer of our skin, our hair, and nails.  The only other biological matter known to come close to the toughness of keratinized tissue is chitin which is found in tree trunks.  Understanding keratin structure could make a great biological marker because keratin expression is helpful in determining epithelial origin (where the cancer started) in anaplastic cancers.  Tumors that express keratin include carcinomas, thymomas, sarcomas, and trophoblastic neoplasms.  Who knew rhino horn could be a clue to diagnosing and finding cancer? 

That's all for now,