Posted by Dr Katy Taylor on 11th July 2016
Mice in laboratory cages are ‘too clean’ according to new claims
New problem with using mice to attempt to mimic human diseases
New research published last month highlighted another problem with using animals in research and testing.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota in the USA used mice in a cruel experiment in an attempt to demonstrate their theory that mice in laboratories might be ‘too clean’ to properly mimic human diseases.1
They bought groups of mice from a commercial laboratory and from a pet store, and then gave them a bacterial infection. Eight weeks later, 22% of the mice bought from the laboratory had died just from the germs transmitted from the pet shop bought mice.
In our opinion this study is a sad example of a growing trend for researchers to try to ‘humanise’ mice in an attempt to improve the translation of animal research to humans.
There are huge genetic and physiological differences between mice and humans. For example, only 50% of the DNA responsible for regulating genes in over 100 mouse cell types can be matched with human DNA3. This means that there are significant differences between the two species in the way that the cell and organs in our bodies work. No amount of tinkering can change this simple fact.
Instead of trying to make mice ‘more human’, we should be looking ahead to what can be achieved using technologically advanced and ethical human-specific alternatives.
- Normalizing the environment recapitulates adult human immune traits in laboratory mice. (2016). Nature, 532: 512-532.
- Dirty room-mated make lab mice more useful. (2016). Nature, 20 April: http://www.nature.com/news/dirty-room-mates-make-lab-mice-more-useful-1.19768
- A comparative encyclopaedia of DNA elements in the mouse genome. (2014). Nature, 515: 355-264.