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Medicine Science

Drug Testing In Mice May Be a Waste of Time, Researchers Warn 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the research-sponsored-by-mice dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A group of researchers including Dr. H. Shaw Warren of Mass. General Hospital and Stanford genomics researcher Ronald W. Davis have published a paper challenging the effectiveness of the 'mouse model' as a basis for medical research, based on a decade-long study involving 39 doctors and scientists across the country. In clinical studies of sepsis (a severe inflammatory disorder caused by the immune system's abnormal response to a pathogen), trauma, and burns, the researchers found that certain drugs triggered completely different genetic responses in mice compared with humans. The Warren-Davis paper was rejected by both Science and Nature before its acceptance by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, perhaps suggesting the degree to which the 'mouse model' has become entrenched within the medical research community. Ninety five percent of the laboratory animals used in research are mice or rats. Mice in particular are ideal subjects for research: they are cheap to obtain and house, easy to handle, and share at least 80 percent of their genes with humans (by some reckoning, closer to 99 percent). Over the past twenty five years, powerful methods of genetically engineering mice by 'knocking out' individual genes have become widely adopted, so that use of mice for drug testing prior to human clinical trials has become standard procedure."
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Drug Testing In Mice May Be a Waste of Time, Researchers Warn

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  • Re:Rejection (Score:5, Informative)

    by Silas is back (765580) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @02:52PM (#42873995) Homepage Journal

    Science's and Nature's rejection rates are very high, there are just this many articles they can publish every week, 15 to 20 for Nature. Almost every paper gets rejected on the first draft, good ones are encouraged to resubmit after revisions. It can take a few years to get your paper into one of these journals, that's what makes the papers of highest quality -- not to be confused with "certainly true", even high quality research can turn out to be wrong.

    The leftovers get resubmitted to lower-ranked journals; that's what you usually do if you want to submit something, you aim for a high ranked journal and hope to get in, if not you revise and resubmit or submit to another journal.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @02:55PM (#42874045) Homepage Journal

    As a 13 year veteran of academic science, and a 3 year veteran of a pharmaceutical company, I can personally attest that scientists disagreeing on matters of great significance, difficulty publishing publishing what one believes to be important work, exasperation at peer review, and unending questions about the ability to translate findings in mice to humans are everyday concerns. I know of no scientist who has not faced criticism from their peers, despite how well respected they may be. I know of no scientist who has not had their papers rejected only to complain that the reviewers just didn't "get it." And contrary to what this article may assert, questions about how well mouse models recapitulate human disease are frequent topics of conversation. To read this article one would think that the scientific enterprise had never considered the notion that mice and humans are not equivalent. What a complete misdirection from reality.

    This article takes the tone of a courageous and noble researcher struggling valiantly against an entrenched evil empire intent on stifling dissent. While this may be a good approach for a movie, it should have no place in serious discourse from a reputable organization like the NYT. A pragmatic discussion of the research and implications are in order, not the quasi-sensationalist man vs empire approach taken here.

    It's really important to remember this, because people just eat the "courageous and noble researcher struggling valiantly against an entrenched evil empire intent on stifling dissent" narrative up, and it's hardly ever the way things actually work. Most important discoveries in science, positive or negative, have been building for years in the field--with many, many people on both (or all, as the case may be) sides of the debate--before they ever reach the public eye.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @03:09PM (#42874231)

    The Researchers did not warn that "Drug Testing in Mice May Be a Waste of Time"; they suggested that Drug testing for drugs for sepsis, trauma, and burns may be a waste of time. The discovery was that the process that induces death in humans for those problems (capillary leakage leading to uncontrollable blood pressure loss) works differently in mice vs. humans, and therefore, for those specific conditions, the mouse model is of limited usefulness. The discovery was NOT: "Drug tests in mice are pointless."

    It has been known for some time that the mouse model is not universally applicable; it's finding those times when it's not that is tricky. We still use mice because they are much cheaper than the alternatives... using the alternatives when not necessary would drive up research costs.

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. -- Dawkins

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