Tuesday, October 04, 2011

To mouse, or not to mouse. What is the question?

After many years in medical and veterinary biology, I always questioned the (rather blind) reliance on the mouse model by modern science. I was glad to see I am not the only one.

Sometimes, there is a 800-pound silverback gorilla in the room and he is 'invisible'. This article exposes the gorilla and shows that the problem animal is not the gorilla but in fact a big fat rodent! An often overlooked aspect of research studies using rodents is that these animals tend to be sedentary, mentally stagnant and overfed. This life style results in obesity and a range of consequent pathologies, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, accelerated neurodegeneration and renal failure. This article details the fact that animals in such an unhealthy state do not qualify as appropriate research models for anything other than the study of 'couch potatoes'. 
This is a major wake-up call for the research community and easily addressed by portioned feeding of laboratory rodents and by putting a running wheel in their cages.
Citation: Shelley C, Marshansky V: "Sometimes, there is a 800-pound silverback gorilla in the room and he is..." Evaluation of: [Martin B et al. "Control" laboratory rodents are metabolically morbid: why it matters. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 6; 107(14):6127-33; doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912955107]. 
Faculty of 1000, 22 Jul 2010. F1000.com/3078978