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,

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