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Fat Rats Are the Problem

This is both funny and fascinating. It seems that the sad lifestyle of morbidly fat lab rats is throwing off the results of medical studies.

Failure to recognize that many laboratory animals live unhealthy lives may be leading researchers to misinterpret their findings, potentially misdirecting efforts to develop theraputic drugs.

The problem, reports a group at the US National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Maryland, is that many rats and mice used in experiments are so overweight that they are glucose intolerant and heading for an early death (B. Martin et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA doi:10.1073/pnas.0912955107; 2010). As a result, data from the animals — about, for example, the effects of an anti-cancer drug — may not apply to normal-weight animals.

“The vast majority of investigators who use rats and mice don’t recognize that their normal conditions are relatively unhealthy,” says Mark Mattson, chief of the National Institute on Aging’s Laboratory of Neurosciences and a co-author on the paper. “The most logical way to extrapolate is to say any data we obtain in the animal model would be more relevant to overweight, sedentary humans than normal-weight, active individuals.”

I think this is a great metaphor for, for, well for lots of stuff.


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