Contrary to what you might think, the life of a lab mouse is not an endless maze of despair.
According to Dr. Crista Royal, PhD, who has spent years monitoring mice in the research laboratories at Medical College of Georgia, lab mice are much better off than normal mice.
In fact, they might be better off than a lot of humans.
“Lab mice are protected from all their natural predators – they never have to worry about hawks, owls, or cats,” Dr. Royal explains. “Plus, they have an all-you-can-eat buffet with a scientifically balanced diet, a constant supply of water, games to play with the researchers, and better medical care than any other rodents (except lab rats!)”
Sometimes the all-you-can-eat buffet gets in the way of the research. According to a 2012 study published by the American Chemical Society, “the widespread practice of allowing laboratory rats and mice to eat as much as they want may be affecting the outcome of experiments.” These extra-well-fed mice are so fat they’re skewing test results.
Not to mention the exquisitely comfortable, climate-controlled habitats these privileged rodents enjoy. Consider the "Mouse Room" specifications recommended by Jax Laboratory, a premier medical mouse supplier. Your “Mouse Room” should follow these guidelines, among others, for the comfort of your mice:
• Light cycle: A 14-hour light/10-hour dark cycle or 12 light/12 dark cycle is commonly used. Ensure lights are not used and that researchers and technicians do not enter the mouse room during the dark cycle.
• Temperature and humidity: Temperatures of 65-75°F (~18-23°C) with 40-60% humidity are recommended.
• Minimize noises and vibrations; these can cause stress and decreased breeding performance.
• Minimize odors: Perfumes and other strong odors can reduce breeding performance and induce stress.
• Provide enrichment: Nestlets (Animal Specialties and Provisions, LLC), NestPaks (WF Fisher and Son), and Shepherd Shacks (Shepherd Specialty Papers) can help alleviate stress and improve breeding.
Just imagine if your office was designed with your exact light, temperature and noise preferences in mind. (Maybe you could use a little “enrichment” now and then, too.) It’s all about making it nice for the mice.
Lab mice don’t have to worry about bullying, either. “They enjoy protected socialization with other mice with researchers monitoring,” Dr. Royal says. Otherwise, aggressive mice might start biting off other mice’s skin and fur. “The mice find this extremely distressing,” she explains sadly.
I’m guessing no one is engineering your workday to keep you from suffering distress.
Perhaps most importantly, lab mice get to be part of something larger than themselves. Like these mice, who participated in a groundbreaking Stanford University study last summer – and helped researchers pinpoint anti-CD47, a “cancer blocking” drug that can slow or stop the growth of any type of tumor. Ati-CD47 blocks a “do not eat” signal normally found in tumor cells, triggering the body to destroy cancer – in effect, creating its own personalized cancer vaccine.
The Stanford team plans to start human clinical trials of the drug in 2014– but the mice were there first.
Imagine being that little, and being part of something as big as the cure for cancer.
Doesn’t it almost make you wish you could be a mouse for a day?
To read more about the anti-CD47 study, or about breakthrough cancer treatments, click here.