Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why Mice Are Not Men

Rebecca Dutton
Home After a Stroke
January 13, 2016

The Dilemma. Innovative treatments have helped mice who have been given strokes, but the results often cannot be duplicated in humans. A researcher on TV helped me remember a fact I learned in college that partially explains these disappointing results. Since the early 1900's researchers have bought specific strains of mice (e.g. B6). These strains have been inbred for generations so there is very little variability in the sample. Follow-up studies may use the same strain of mouse to eliminate sample differences as an explanation for why new findings confirm or refute the original study. Researchers eliminate other alternative explanations for their results by keeping the cages, food, and activities the same for all animals in the study. On the other hand, humans are a diverse group that has interbred for thousands of years. Humans also have the freedom to vary their life experience which modifies their brains and bodies.

Bottom Line #1. Apple can send updates to improve their smart phones because the codes are identical in every iphone on the planet. Using genetically engineered mice makes it easier to get consistent results in animal studies. The freedom humans expect is a double-edged sword.

Bottom Line #2. No treatment is 100% effective. Even when a clinical trial is successful, some subjects do not respond positively to the treatment. It is impossible to predict if you will be like the subjects who responded positively or the subjects who were not helped by the treatment. A trial period is needed to see if a treatment protocol will help you.

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