Combined with fish, rodents account for over 83% of the animals used for research purposes. Mice are commonly bred and used for clinical research because they:
- Allow for less costly testing with limited resources
- Can help ensure safety of drugs before they move on to human trials
- Share many genes with humans
Studies on mice can get confused or misrepresented by media outlets—there are fundamental differences between humans and rodents, so drugs will interact differently with people than they will with mice. Read on to learn more about mice-based studies!
How Humans vs Mice Process Substances, for Clinical Research Program Grads
If you have a clinical research diploma, you understand the importance of ethics in clinical research. The Canadian Council of Animal Care has guidelines and restrictions for use of animals in studies, which govern how animal studies are conducted.
Yet while mice play an important role in the advancement of clinical research, it is a myth that mice or other rodents have bodies that entirely mimic humans. Although results in mice can point to what might happen in humans, they don’t necessarily connect. There are many similarities, but humans have distinct biology from mice that will absorb and process substances differently.
Mice and humans are similar in ways such as:
- Both are mammals
- Their bodies have similar endocrine systems and immune responses
Mice and humans differ in ways such as:
- They have different protein receptors on insulin-producing beta-cells
- The GLP-1 receptor is produced in larger quantities within mice
Know How Media Skews Information after a Clinical Research Program
The myth that a cure in a mouse equals a cure in a human is perpetuated by headlines about studies, which are notorious for omitting the information that a study was conducted on mice. Sometimes articles don’t mention the caveat that claims from the studies are only present in rodents until well into the piece, past the first paragraph. The effect of this is that:
- The general public can be frightened by results that don’t reflect effects on humans
- People with illnesses can be led to believe that a cure is around the corner when it isn’t
Various online presences are combating this issue. James Heathers is one of these people, running a Twitter account that exposes articles that leave out “in mice” from their headlines. As a clinical researcher, you can help to promote greater understanding so that media outlets stop this dangerous habit.
Judah Folkman and an Example of Skew
Famously in 1990, a researcher named Judah Folkman working on mice was able to use a compound called endostatin to eradicate tumours without resistance. Many heralded this as a miracle cure for cancer in humans, but endostatin did not have anywhere near the same level of effectiveness in human trials, as you may have guessed from learning how clinical trials work in a clinical research program. Folkman is credited with the cheeky quote, “If you have cancer and you are a mouse, we can take good care of you”.
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