By Roshni Ramesan:
Mickey Mouse may be the most famous mouse in existence, but even mice without fame are an essential part of scientific research that helps create breakthroughs in medicine.
Rodents like mice and rats are used in nearly 95% of scientific research involving animals, according to the Foundation for Biomedical Research .
So why is it that for nearly 200 years, mice are favoured by researchers and scientists?
Easy to genetically modify
Mice and humans share more than 90% of genes, which makes them surprisingly similar to humans and therefore excellent test subjects.
When compared to other animals test subjects such as worms, yeast or even dogs, mice are easier to genetically modify.
Scientists can easily modify mice’s genes to study the effects of any diseases including viruses.
The genetics of a mouse are modified to make it similar to that of a person with diseases such as hypertension or heart disease. This ‘model mouse’ then undergoes experiments that help create the foundations for treatment of diseases in humans.
Convenience is a priority
Mice are preferred in the lab for many reasons much simpler than just their biological makeup.
Mice are small in size and are cheap to buy and take care of. In addition to that, mice reproduce extremely quickly, an average female mouse can birth 5 to 10 litters in a year, with each litter having 5–8 babies.
Mice have a short lifespan with a laboratory-bred mouse living up to 2 years. The short lifespan helps to study the effects of aging and progression of diseases over a lifetime and over multiple generations in a fairly quick period with many test subjects to compare to.
Small mice, big achievements
The tiny mouse has helped in the discovery of vitamin K, developing the polio vaccine, learning about neurons in brains and even breakthroughs in cancer research. All of these and many more experiments used mice as test subjects, before moving onto human trials.
A slew of Nobel prize-winning discoveries like the ones mentioned above was made possible due to research experiments conducted on mice.
Why can’t animal testing be replaced with simulations on a computer?
Computers are an undeniably important part of scientific research. However, to conduct research we need information that we can only get through actual organisms rather than computer simulations.
To understand how cells and tissues interact with each other and how complex systems such as cardiovascular and nervous systems work, we need a hands-on approach that will involve animal subjects.
Whilst computers are great for dealing with large quantities of information, the basic information has to be gained via testing on live animals.
The essential step before human trials
Scientists and researchers across the world are scrambling to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and it’s not surprising that most preliminary testing is being done on mice.
Before vaccines go forward with human trials, the vaccines are tested on mice, thus making sure that human lives are not put at risk.
From cancer research to potential coronavirus vaccines, mice contribute heavily to the scientific community. Despite their countless contributions, one thing is certain, out in the real world, the common mouse is widely seen as a troublesome pest that will be killed with no remorse.
Mickey Mouse is the only mouse we wouldn’t mind in our houses.
Originally published at https://edtimes.in on July 3, 2020.