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Of Mice and Cancer

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the paging-doctor-nicodemus dept.

Medicine 109

Maximum Prophet points out a series of articles in Slate about the role of mice and rats in the fight against cancer. The first article discusses the problem of using the same type of animal for many tests; the reactions may be consistent, but they can also be different from the reactions a human has to the same treatment. "The inbred, factory-farmed rodents in use today—raised by the millions in germ-free barrier rooms, overfed and understimulated and in some cases pumped through with antibiotics—may be placing unseen constraints on what we know and learn." The second article focuses on one particular type of mouse, bred specifically for consistency and for its suitability to labwork, which has come to dominate biological testing. The final piece examines what researchers are trying to learn from the naked mole rat, a species that doesn't seem to get cancer on its own, and is resistant to attempts to induce cancer. "Buffenstein and her students tried one of these shortcuts. They placed some mole rats in a gamma chamber and blasted their pale, pink bodies with ionizing rays. The animals were unimpressed."

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Later, while the lab slept, (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38102982)

the mole rats evolved. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Later, while the lab slept, (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104040)

And they have a plan....

Re:Later, while the lab slept, (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104610)

They don't feel pain.

It's true. Mole rats, due to a side-effect of a mutation that gave them increased resistance to high carbon dioxide levels, are incapable of feeling pain.

Yes, of course they're constraining what we learn. (0)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38102984)

They're constraining what we learn to how the fuck are they immune to cancer!

Find out, then tell my doctor, and get me some of that.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103062)

OK fine. Side effects: You will lose all your hair and become pink and wrinkly. May induce urge to burrow and forrage.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103172)

OK, preferable to slow and painful death by cancer.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (1)

tencatl (2509490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103184)

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (4, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103988)

It *can't* be worse than chemo.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38109898)

Hear hear isn't that the truth!

Dr Burzynski

www.BurzynskiMovie.com

Some time when you want to watch a movie try this documentary.

This documentary tells the astonishing story of the cure for cancer
that was censored, attacked and nearly destroyed by the medical
establishment (which actually does not want a cure for cancer!). This
is a must-see documentary for everyone to see.

People laugh at those who question things as "conspiracy theorists"
and make fun of them. Funny how the evidence in this case is
irrefutable and yes it was a conspiracy and it is still going on.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104054)

Can't be worse than chemo.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103890)

I will remain unchanged.

GIEF. MEH.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106056)

Hmm...

So.. no real difference for many of us....

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103142)

They're saying they're being constrained by only looking at the certain popular species of rodent to induce cancers and see how well a given drug then works at beating - that won't be reliable because the mice might react to a drug in a completely different way to a human. So a drug that works for mice might not in humans or perhaps even make it worse, while the wonder-drug that cures all human cancers might be missed completely because it had no effect when they tried it on mice.

The naked mole rat isn't the type of rodent they use for most of their tests though. In fact it would actually probably be a type avoided - if it's resistant to attempts to induce cancer then you can't create easily a cancer in it that you can test your new drug on, far easier to use one of the other mice. It's an example of a different type of research where they're approaching it from a different angle that might be much more productive.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103262)

. So a drug that works for mice might not in humans or perhaps even make it worse, while the wonder-drug that cures all human cancers might be missed completely because it had no effect when they tried it on mice.

I think that's true because they're mice. No need to invoke "inbreeding" as well.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103386)

If you judge by the article she's bucking the system by looking at naked mole rats for an explanation for why they don't get cancer. The irony is that if she succeeds in finding the explanation and isolating it out to a treatment protocol the first thing she'll do is give some mice cancer and see if the treatment works on them (ok, maybe the second if the mechanism can be disabled in the naked mole rat somehow). That isn't bucking the system, it's being at a different stage in your research; she's still forming a hypothesis as to what an effective treatment could be. Once she has that she'll move right over to the sterile, genetically identical, and above all biologically consistent lab mice and rats. Why? Because that is how you perform replicatable animal trials. If someone halfway around the world can't replicate your results your experiment isn't worth much, that's why we have millions of essentially cloned lab mice in the first place.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 2 years ago | (#38105776)

If you judge by the article she's bucking the system by looking at naked mole rats for an explanation for why they don't get cancer. The irony is that if she succeeds in finding the explanation and isolating it out to a treatment protocol the first thing she'll do is give some mice cancer and see if the treatment works on them (ok, maybe the second if the mechanism can be disabled in the naked mole rat somehow). That isn't bucking the system, it's being at a different stage in your research; she's still forming a hypothesis as to what an effective treatment could be. Once she has that she'll move right over to the sterile, genetically identical, and above all biologically consistent lab mice and rats. Why? Because that is how you perform replicatable animal trials. If someone halfway around the world can't replicate your results your experiment isn't worth much, that's why we have millions of essentially cloned lab mice in the first place.

Clear thinking, mod up please.

Re:Yes, of course they're constraining what we lea (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38113646)

Unfortunately, she's caught a terrible disease from the mole rats: she looks like one.

Wider problems in how to design tests (2)

waterbear (190559) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104416)

The article made good points: the issues are even wider. There is much more besides the type of test-animal strain that can make for problems in effective testing.

Nowadays some new pharmaceutical product-candidates are designed and intended to work by specifically interacting with some very human-specific features of materials present in the eventual treated patients. Sometimes product-candidates of this kind are not expected to interact with non-human animal substances in a corresponding way at all.

An example lies in the specificity of human-antibody-related products (some of them intended for use against types of cancer). Their effects may be hard to mimic and test in any non-human animal subject whatever.

This makes for much harder problems in test design than in the more straightforward old days of (for example) testing candidate antibiotics. That involves checking that the material does kill the target bug and does not damage the treated animal or human subject, and in the past, observations of tested animals often gave very good indications of what would happen next when the substance was given to humans. (Caution is still needed, and clinical trial regimens accordingly have to include careful human safety testing as a follow-up to successful and careful animal safety testing.)

But when the product candidate is supposed only to interact in a special way with very human-specific substances, somehow its safety and efficacy has to be effectively tested before it gets to humans -- but how? -- when no non-human animal can be expected to show the same type of effects whether wanted or unwanted.

This new twist to the problem of test design has not always been addressed successfully. A tragic example occurred a few years ago, when a modified antibody with a design incorporating very unusual and specifically human-human interactions passed the animal safety testing that was decided on, but then went on to injure severely the first few human test volunteers by causing major acute iflammatory effects not seen in the animal tests.

The issues go well beyond selection of strains of test animals and sometimes the solutions may have to be developed on a case-by-case basis..

-wb-

ohshi- (5, Funny)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103008)

"They placed some mole rats in a gamma chamber and blasted their pale, pink bodies with ionizing rays."

Please dont poke the rats, you might make them angry, and you wont like them when they are angry.

Re:ohshi- (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103028)

They must not read comic books.

Re:ohshi- (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103294)

Or The New Yorker [newyorker.com] .

Re:ohshi- (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103356)

Thus explains Rufus. Always wondered how he got so darn smart.

Re:ohshi- (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104034)

What do irradiated mole rats have to do with the 13th Disciple?

Re:ohshi- (1)

Baseclass (785652) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103940)

Do not taunt naked mole rats!

Re:ohshi- (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38104396)

News just in, the TSA will be using these rats for testing their X-Ray backscatter machines.

You win. (1)

Rifter13 (773076) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104524)

Yep. You win.

Reality (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103022)

Scientists learn mice are different from humans. News at 11.

Re:Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103218)

Scientist did not learn mice that are different from humans, the media apparently did. As a research scientist at a top university, doing work in mouse genetics, all of the caveats to this type of research are well appreciated, understood, and at times, even beneficially exploited. I get so tired of these stories where pointing out something obvious to those in the actual field of research seems so revelatory to those who read popular lay media. as if it's news to us. The general level of science competency in American (United States) society is unfortunate and makes fertile ground for such poor stories.

America! Fuck yeah! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103044)

And this is exactly why we need SOPA. Innovation like this would not be possible anymore if we let rogue foreigners pirate our IP. Please help reelect such fine representatives such as the bill's introducer Lamar Smith (R) and true patriot co-sponsors such as Bob Goodlatte (R), Dennis R. Ross (R), Elton Gallegy (R), Marsha Blackburn (R), Mary Bono Mack (R), Steve Chabot (R), Timothy Griffin (R), Lee Terry (R), Mark Amodei (R), John Carter (R), Peter King (R), Thomas Marino (R), Alan Nunnelee (R), Steve Scalise (R). Bring back home the $135 billion bring stolen from this country by pirates and counterfeiters.

Re:America! Fuck yeah! (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103180)

You have no intellectual property. You just post the same drizzly cut and paste crap into every thread.

Re:America! Fuck yeah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103316)

At least I have chicken.

So is there an alternative? (3, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103080)

Last time I checked, most people don't want to be lab subjects even when there's not a whole lot of risk, and a lot of modern research means the destruction of the lifeform being tested upon, either by the disease process or by the technicians and scientists studying the progression of the disease or the treatments.

We don't allow for experimentation on prisoners generally, regardless of the possibility of consent, and that really only leaves us with the down-and-out or the insane, and even with the latter, we don't generally allow it if they're diagnosed insane as they no longer can consent either.

Most higher order or larger animals that might make better analogs to humans have gestation periods that are too long, or they're endangered or threatened, or they're more difficult to work with.

I don't see a better solution, though if one is brought to our attention I certainly won't blanket-disapprove without giving it consideration...

Re:So is there an alternative? (3, Insightful)

jasno (124830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103224)

People are hard to experiment on, because you can't control all of the variables. People also have different genes. It's hard to tell if an effect was due to the drug, their environment, or their genetic makeup.

Mice, while definitely not people, have fairly homogeneous genetics and you can control what they eat, their exercise, etc.

Re:So is there an alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103368)

Eh, I think it's more the ethics. People will be angrier than ever if the pharmaceutical companies started going around saying "Hey, no life-form has ever consumed this medicine but there's a theory that suggests that it might make you better. Care to try?"

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103996)

More importantly, people tend to frown on you giving people cancer.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106192)

It's only an ethical problem for some. With over 7 billion humans on the face of the planet, it wouldn't hurt to start experimenting on some. Make it voluntary and pay well. Or better yet, put those deathrow prisons to use. Human life is worth no more or less than any other creature, as a general thing. The real problem is that only a select few corporations stand to profit from the outcome. No one is really in it for humanitarian reasons.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38107280)

Or better yet, put those deathrow prisons to use.

What could possibly go wrong with this idea, in a world where pharmaceutical companies literally draft legislation?

Re:So is there an alternative? (2)

stating_the_obvious (1340413) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103718)

Specifically, mice strains used in research (of which there are many different strains) are bred to be genetically identical. That's the whole point. All the different strains represent identical genetics and each strain may have attributes that are desirable for the researcher.

The mice aren't valuable because they are similar to people; they're valuable because they are identical to each other.

Re:So is there an alternative? (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103318)

It's actually a very silly complaint.

We test things on dozens of different kinds of animals.

A good biologist is supposed to know if the presence or absence of a reaction is due to the choice of species or not.

If they don't know, then they should be testing on several species before coming to any conclusions about the possible effects on other animals (i.e., us).

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103428)

I don't think the author would disagree with you and they certainly aren't against animal testing. The point is that the only reason we test mice is because they are easy to raise in factory conditions, breed fast and we have a lot of data on them. Those are all very good things. The problem is that they are terrible stand-ins for human beings most of the time and especially as stand ins for cancer, since they don't even get the same cancers as we do. The author is encouraging us to find the best animal test subject for the test instead of just using the most convenient. That may vary depending on what is being tested. And yes, it may take much longer due to gestational cycles and such, but that's ok. Good, accurate research is worth the time and the wait.

Re:So is there an alternative? (2)

benlwilson (983210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103498)

There's no alternative animal to test on because the premise is wrong.

The bad premise being.. "It's ok to test on animals because less intelligent means less rights" or perhaps it needs to be said the other way around. "It's ok for humans to test on animals because humans are more intelligent and with more intelligences comes more rights"

It's a bad premise because we're mixing up the words "rights" and "responsibility".

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

lessthan (977374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104248)

So how do you do the type of research that requires living subjects, without living subjects?

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

benlwilson (983210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38105098)

I don't claim to have the answers.
But in my opinion a good start would be limiting all testing done to strictly non lethal and non painful.

Yes, it would drastically reduce progress in the field, but so does not testing on humans directly.
One has to agree that testing everything on humans directly would yield much better progress and at a much faster rate.
But we choose to not do that and sacrifice the progress it would bring. We need to do the same with animal testing.
It may speed up progress but that doesn't make it the right thing to do.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38105246)

So killing animals is wrong, even in a good cause?
Ok, so i guess you're not going to kill fleas if they start living on your dog. Or lice living on your child. And curing you of those worms that have started living in your intestines is right out.

It's just a little itch, not a proper justification for killing all those defenseless creatures.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

benlwilson (983210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106288)

A good cause for who though, mankind? definitely not that animal being tested on.

It strikes me as a bit silly to try and justify negative effects on one species by saying it producing some positive effects for a more intelligent species.
By that argument any species found to be more intelligent than mankind would have the right to do whatever they wanted with us.

Your example of flees and lice isn't the same thing because they are attacking you, killing them is self defence. It's also a lot more humane than what goes on in animal testing.

The sad part of it all is that a very significant percentage of the world population just couldn't bring themselves to put an animal through the kind of abuse that occurs behind closed doors in laboratories or meat works factories.
It's far to easy to ignore things when you don't have to deal with them.

I often wonder what would happen if the act of killing animals for food and science was assigned like jury duty

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106908)

By that argument any species found to be more intelligent than mankind would have the right to do whatever they wanted with us.

But... we're humans! They can't do that (and I'm not being biased at all).

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38107548)

And how do you feel about the widespread murder of plants? Should they be left to enjoy their lives too?

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

benlwilson (983210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38111040)

Plants have no nerves, so they can't feel physical pain like animals do.

Re:So is there an alternative? (2)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38111422)

So as soon as we engineer a mouse that does not feel pain, it will become ok experiment on them?

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

benlwilson (983210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38113042)

It will never be "ok" to take advantage of someone/something for your own purposes.

When you get down to it, if something has any rights whatsoever then the first right must be the right to exist in the way it desires.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#38114428)

So, how is this different from growing a corn plant for the express purpose of putting food in my stomach?

That's the whole problem with biology - you can come up with any arbitrary line in the sand about what is and isn't OK, and chances are somebody can find one of a bazillion life forms that makes you eat your words, and if they can't they can probably create one.

What makes a paramecium or radish different from a mouse? And what is stopping us from making a mouse that specifically lacks that quality that makes it different?

If you're willing to live in a bubble and eat nothing but nutrients chemically synthesized from sterile-filtered CO2, N2, and H2O then most will be able to concede that you at least have ethical consistency.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38111536)

Those are two very interesting assumptions:

1) Plants don't feel pain. How would you know? Pain is just information transmission to a set of cells that decodes the signal. It doesn't necessarily require nerves or a transmission speed akin to that of a mammal.

2) Assuming they DO feel pain, but not like mammals do, it's then OK to torture them?

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

benlwilson (983210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38112988)

Yes, they are assumptions, but that's all any of us can do.
We look at the world through what we believe to be true.

It's wrong to torture anything. Torture by definition can never be "ok".

Re:So is there an alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38105658)

Yes, it would drastically reduce progress in the field, but so does not testing on humans directly.

No, it would stop progress in most fields, actually.

One has to agree that testing everything on humans directly would yield much better progress and at a much faster rate.

Sure, just get some humans that live out their entire life cycles in 2-3 years and we'd be perfect replacements for mice! If you can't, well, the 'better progress' you expect most certainly won't be arriving at a faster rate, but many, many decades later.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106218)

Without living subjects? There are over 7 billion humans on the face of the planet. That sounds like plenty of living subjects to me. Pay the poor to be test subjects, give deathrow prisoners the choice to live by serving science, etc.

Hell, why not farm breed humans specifically for these types of experiments? If they're just uneducated, feral children then they're really no different than a chimp. Not a lot of people seem to have a problem with experimenting upon apes... but humans are off limits for some reason.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38107064)

Because humans are humans. Therefore, doing anything bad to a human is bad.

Re:So is there an alternative? (4, Interesting)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103576)

This is part of the motivation for developing computational models of cancer. Code up the biological assumptions, calibrate to mouse data, validate to the mouse. If it works, then the biology and calibration protocols are probably fine. Re-calibrate to humans (with changes to geometry, tissue properties, cell parameters, etc.), run the models on clinical data (pathology, imaging, proteomics, etc.), and see how it does.

Now, actually doing this is the subject of tricky ongoing work by many many teams of people (see the work in the NCI Physical Sciences Oncology Network [cancer.gov] ), but it's being driven by just the types of problems stated in this thread.

We've been testing various aspects of this on breast cancer and lymphoma, and the results are encouraging, ranging from explaining "tissue artifacts" in pathology (due to fast timescale biophysics) to predicting correlations between mammography and pathology (due in part to necrotic core biomechanics + oxygen diffusion limitations), to predicting DCIS excision volumes. (See stuff here [mathcancer.org] and a few movies [mathcancer.org] .)

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

lastx33 (2097770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38105040)

There are a lot of new techniques being developed to allow experimentation without the use of mice or other animals such as http://www.drhadwentrust.org/current-portfolio/skin-cancer [drhadwentrust.org] . DHT are funding quite a few different research projects as are a number of other organisations which they hope will overcome the limitations of and errors resulting from studies on non-humans.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#38105160)

I propose we use lawyers and politicians as lab animals.

1. They're very nearly human.
2. There's plenty of them.
3. Nobody would care if they were harmed during the experiments.
4. They have only two parts (mouth and asshole), and they're interchangeable.

No profit, only progress!

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106702)

I don't see a better solution, though if one is brought to our attention I certainly won't blanket-disapprove without giving it consideration...

I think the alternative is to use several different types of animals, including pigs and monkeys, but our anti-animal-experimentation environment has kept us from experimenting on a broader range of subjects. Good or bad, I don't know.

Re:So is there an alternative? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106898)

most people don't want to be lab subjects even when there's not a whole lot of risk

Not sure if mice want it, either.

Re:So is there an alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38108330)

I don't see a better solution, though if one is brought to our attention I certainly won't blanket-disapprove without giving it consideration...

I think what the article is trying to get at is that it's better to examine cross-species -- ie. not one single genestock -- if you want generalisable results.

So the first alternative is multiple breeds of mice, not simply one.

This is exactly what we need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103096)

Keep going. Try your hardest to induce cancer in something that is resistant to it. And good luck to you when you finally do, cause then you've created the worlds first "super cancer", which will probably be contagious, cross mutate to humans, and wipe everyone out except Lance Armstrong.

Thanks a lot,

Pale Pink Mouse.

Re:This is exactly what we need (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 2 years ago | (#38105792)

I am currently developing a chlorine-resistant form of algae in my backyard pool.

Yeah, we knew that already. (5, Informative)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103130)

I worked with mice and rats in oncology research. That this stuff isn't directly translatable to humans is something everyone knows. For someone to comment on that would be like someone saying "Whoa! This room is just FULL of air!" Uh, yeah. And?

They use mice and rats because testing things on people is unethical and testing things on animals a lot more like us (primates, pigs, etc) is either unethical or expensive.

In my experience it wasn't the case that the biological effects were wildly different. A substance that produced a particular effect in rats often would in humans (or other animals) too, but often at a different dose. The problem with mice/rats was their tolerance. You might find a drug that was effective in rats, but its toxic dose in humans is less than or too close to its therapeutic dose.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103292)

I had to read the article a few times. It doesn't make sense. Then I found it. He didn't see a result he wanted, and blamed the mice. Now he is wrapping himself up in a process of deflecting things he doesn't want as a flaw in the mice.

I mean, reread that article and think about that. He logical fallacy pops up a few times.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104332)

Actually, I thought he'd discovered something rather profound:

"I began to realize that the ‘control’ animals used for research studies throughout the world are couch potatoes," he tells me. It's been shown that mice living under standard laboratory conditions eat more and grow bigger than their country cousins. At the National Institute on Aging, as at every major research center, the animals are grouped in plastic cages the size of large shoeboxes, topped with a wire lid and a food hopper that's never empty of pellets. This form of husbandry, known as ad libitum feeding, is cheap and convenient since animal technicians need only check the hoppers from time to time to make sure they haven’t run dry. Without toys or exercise wheels to distract them, the mice are left with nothing to do but eat and sleep—and then eat some more.

(My emphasis)

The mice he had bred were perfect stand in for Americans . Contrary to the thesis in TFA, these critters are
the perfect research subject.

Of course, the article then conflated the issue completely. But he's got a gold mine here.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38114156)

Inbred, Check!
Fat, Check!
Lazy, Check!

They're US-ian alright!

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104084)

They use mice and rats because testing things on people is unethical and testing things on animals a lot more like us (primates, pigs, etc) is either unethical or expensive.

They test drugs on people all the time. Obviously, it's not a first step, it's when the drug is getting ready to actually be released to the market, but still, they do test things on humans. There's places right here in the US where you can go stay in a hotel-like room for a week and watch TV, get injected with some new drug, and they monitor your body, for a cash payment of a few thousand dollars.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104514)

True enough. I was imprecise in what I said. Absolutely, the goal and hope in the lab I was in was that we'd get to clinical trials, which of course means testing it on real, live humans with actual tumors. Some of our work did lead to clinical trials, and I'm sure still does, I just don't work there anymore. You don't get to clinical trials, though, before testing something on animals to see if there's credible reason to believe it's going to work better than current therapies.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104870)

Actually, I'm not talking about testing on real, live humans with actual tumors (or any malady), but instead on perfectly healthy people. Those are the studies I was referring to: they pay healthy people to get dosed with drugs to see what the side effects are.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (1)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104122)

For those that don't want to RT(fairly long)FA, the leading hypothesis as to why naked mole rats are resistant to cancer is that their cells do not divide when they get too close to other cells. Also, less cell division over a lifespan would reduce the frequency of a multitude of potential problems that can occur during mitosis. This happens to them normally, and is probably a result of their low metabolism, an adaptation to living underground.

More active mammals like mice and humans lack such strict limits on cell growth. This is probably beneficial most of the time, except when the cells that are trying to divide are cancerous.

So unfortunately, this resistance to cancer is probably not easily translated to us without losing most of the advantages of quick cell growth.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38108504)

The word you're looking for is banal.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (1)

Zombie (8332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38111264)

They use mice and rats because testing things on people is unethical and testing things on animals a lot more like us (primates, pigs, etc) is either unethical or expensive.

Testing things on animals unlike humans is unethical too. It's just more convenient to ignore the ethical implications if they don't look at you in a manner that a human animal socially responds to.

Re:Yeah, we knew that already. (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38111548)

Whoa! Full of AIR! Seriously?

Constrainging what we learn? (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103140)

Nope. We are clearly trying to learn how to cure simulated cancer in mice. You see, it isn't even natural cancer they are curing in the mice. They usually create an artificial cancer by genetically engineering it into the mice, then try to cure that.

Re:Constrainging what we learn? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103230)

you're an idiot.

*Sees your ID* Ah, you already knew that.

Much ado about nothing (4, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103174)

", but they can also be different from the reactions a human has"
yeah, no shit. everyone knows that. Mice is just a testing step. It a great way to look at cell interactions, and responce.

"may be placing unseen constraints on what we know and learn."
no, they aren't. We know the constraints. If you find a way to test without those constraints, by all means let researchers know.

" a species that doesn't seem to get cancer on its own, "
can't wait to learn why, might help us all.

Look, having a mouse that gets a specific type of cancer at 3 months, 99.999% of the time(it's actually higher) is very valuable for research.

TO sume up,

Using mice isn't absolutely perfect for all case, and some species have interesting properties we can learn from.

""The inbred, factory-farmed rodents in use today—raised by the millions in germ-free barrier rooms, overfed and understimulated and in some cases pumped through with antibiotics—"
What a bunch of alarmist propaganda. I mean, if you don't have facts or knowledge on your side,. use alarmists word and FUD.

oh and this bit of crap:

""This is important for scientists," says Mattson, "but they don't think about it at all.""
What? every scientist I have ever talked to that does lab work is aware of this. Is this Matterson guy selling something? Clearly he is qualified, but every time I here a scientist talk about lab work with mice, this very subject comes up, and they always point out that just because it happens in mice doesn't mean we will see any affect on people.

And the graph. OMG look at how much more study on rats there is! ahhh!!

well, they are cheaper AND are a first step. So of course they are used. When there is no effect, no other animal is tests so of course it will show fewer of other type of animal is used later in the process.

OTOH, maybe only the scientist I listen to and talk to mention this, and none other do.

The man has the cred:
http://www.grc.nia.nih.gov/branches/irp/mmattson.htm [nih.gov]

But I am confused on his statements on mice as if no one knows about those issues.
I wonder how much the reported misrepresented what he said?

Re:Much ado about nothing (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103542)

This article isn't talking to scientists, it's talking to the public in hopes that we will put pressure on the scientists to do better. He's basically trying to shame the rest of the profession into doing better.

You say you can't wait to learn why the naked mole rat doesn't get cancer on it's own... well if NIH/NIA keeps it's current attitudes and gets it's budget cut then none of us may ever find out.

Re:Much ado about nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38104430)

they always point out that just because it happens in mice doesn't mean we will see any affect on people

But did they know WHY? That seems to be the key thing here: he went back and redid the research on some drugs that looked like they should have worked but failed, and discovered that when given to mice that were exercised and properly fed, they shouldn't have worked in the first place. How many other false positives and false negatives could there have been due to poor diet?

Re:Much ado about nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38104744)

I think the "mice as first step" idea is one of the things the article takes issue with; the efficacy of treatment in mice does not necessarily correlate with efficacy in humans. Valuable medicine might be discarded after a trial using mice just because the rodents didn't respond to treatment.

I, for one, welcome... (1)

DCheesi (150068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103228)

...our post-nuclear mole rat overlords!

OR: All I ever needed to know about high-radiation biology, I learned from Fallout 3.

Mole rats (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103234)

"Mole rats"? More like ghoul rats!
It all fits... Mole rat hills are clearly catacombs, radioactive ruins of the rodent nuclear war.

Re:Mole rats (2)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103918)

Ghouls? Well that's funny, because naked mole rates are a prime example of a eusocial creature. Like bees. They form a society for the greater good, but they also work for the greater good at their own detriment. Only the queen is allowed to reproduce. The others CAN, but DON'T. So they're supporting the colony not for their own offspring, but for the sake of their nieces and nephews. How ghoulish.
Eusocial, it's crazy stuff.

And now I'm going to have an entirely different spin on the haunted crypt full of ghouls in the next D&D campaign.

Good news (1)

tencatl (2509490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103270)

The good news is that we now know how to cure any form of cancer in mice.

Sounds closer to humans than they claim (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103340)

"The inbred, factory-farmed rodents in use today—raised by the millions in germ-free barrier rooms, overfed and understimulated and in some cases pumped through with antibiotics—may be placing unseen constraints on what we know and learn."

Have these people even *seen* humans in a cubicle farm in a large office tower?

Re:Sounds closer to humans than they claim (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103608)

They have cube farms for people at the JAX. I've been there.

And they smell marginally better, though the food is way way better.

Re:Sounds closer to humans than they claim (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38111556)

Maybe where you eat....

Pinky... (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103344)

...Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Re:Pinky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38104072)

...Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I think so, Brain, but next time, could we go with the purple unicorn [youtube.com] instead of Stephenie Meyer's emo vampires? It's a twilight campaign either way, you know.

Common knowledge (4, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38103504)

Research causes cancer in mice.

Re:Common knowledge (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104096)

actually, it has been scientifically proven in millions of studies that white laboratory mice cause cancer.

Disgusting (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38103860)

Biologists don't have a clue what is happening so they randomly torture animals to death hoping for results.
That is not science, it is disgusting and inhumane.
I don't know how they can live with themselves.

Re:Disgusting (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38107388)

Indeed. They don't even eat them afterwards!

Naked Mole Rats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38104130)

So it's not just cockroaches that will survive a nuclear war or ecological disaster.

PETA person of the year semi-finalist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38104232)

"Buffenstein and her students tried one of these shortcuts. They placed some mole rats in a gamma chamber and blasted their pale, pink bodies with ionizing rays. The animals were unimpressed."

Under the just throw it against the wall and see what sticks school of science.
Seems rather crude, unsophisticated, and probably rather pointless if nothing else.

I blame Deep Thought (1)

BenJCarter (902199) | more than 2 years ago | (#38104916)

It's all part of the mice's master plan to question the answer 42...

Cure for Cancer? Never. (0, Troll)

BaldingByMicrosoft (585534) | more than 2 years ago | (#38106116)

Seriously... Cancer is big, big business. I expect it will never be cured as long as this kind of money is being rolled around. I think I flipped from disturbed to disgusted by this when lots of billboard advertisements started appearing for cancer treatment facilities.

At this point, I may be happier calling this life good and heading out than feeding their damn money machine.

If they really wanted to speed up research.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38109042)

They would start building a Ascension Engine. ;)

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