Researchers find mice cages alter brains

Jul 16, 2010

Researchers at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus have found the brains of mice used in laboratories worldwide can be profoundly affected by the type of cage they are kept in, a breakthrough that may require scientists to reevaluate the way they conduct future experiments.

"We assume that used in laboratories are all the same, but they are not," said Diego Restrepo, director of the Neuroscience Program and professor of cell and whose paper on the subject was published Tuesday, June 29. "When you change the cages you change the brains and that affects the outcomes of research."

Mice are the chief research in the world today with some of the most promising cancer, genetic and neuroscience breakthroughs riding on the rodents. Researchers from different universities rely on careful comparison of experimental results for their discoveries; but Restrepo has found that some of these comparisons may not be trustworthy.

He discovered that the brains of mice are extremely sensitive to their environment and can physically change when moved from an enclosure where air circulates freely to one where it doesn't. Specifically, the portion of the mouse's responsible for its keen sense of smell, the , is altered. Restrepo also found profound changes in the levels of aggression when mice are moved from one type of cage to another.

The results, he says, can greatly affect the accuracy of the research. Two labs doing the same experiments may get totally different results and never know why.

"This could explain some of the failures to replicate findings in different laboratories and why contradictory data are published by different laboratories even when genetically identical mice are used as subjects," said Restrepo.

The consequences could mean good science derailed or promising research abandoned simply due to the design of a mouse cage - something largely overlooked until now.

Restrepo's findings were just published in PLoS One, the Public Library of Science, a major peer-reviewed scientific journal, and are gaining and increasingly wide audience.

He hopes scientists will work to uncover the depth of the problem and find ways to overcome it.

"We need to ensure that laboratory findings are truly indicative of natural processes and not simply the result of environmental factors within each lab," he said.

Explore further: The economics of newly graduated veterinarians

Provided by University of Colorado Denver

5 /5 (5 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Missing lab mice infected with plague

Sep 15, 2005

The FBI and New Jersey officials have started a hushed but intensive search for three missing lab mice reportedly infected with deadly strains of plague.

Mice Levitated for Space Research

Sep 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have managed to levitate young mice in research carried out for NASA. Levitated mice may help research on bone density loss during long exposures to low gravity, such as in space ...

Recommended for you

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

Dec 27, 2014

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

Scientists target mess from Christmas tree needles

Dec 26, 2014

The presents are unwrapped. The children's shrieks of delight are just a memory. Now it's time for another Yuletide tradition: cleaning up the needles that are falling off your Christmas tree.

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2010
The article "Toward a Mouse Neuroethology in the Laboratory Environment" with a link to the pdf is here
http://www.ploson....0011359
RobertKarlStonjek
1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2010
I was amazed at how much more intelligent and innovative a wild mouse loose in our house was than caged mice kept as pets. He established several camp sites where he (or she) cached food, figured out the latch on the humane trap I made and stole food from it, became aware of when we were likely to be in certain rooms and avoided them and so on. When finally caught in the humane trap (after my experimentation with the latch) he tried several strategies for escaping including hiding behind the door which almost fooled me. Caged mice just ate the food and fell asleep (in the same trap).
gwrede
3 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2010
It'll take 5 to 10 years before the scientific community as a whole acknowledges that humans, too, are profoundly affected by the type of cages they're in.

That should have implications on architecture, zoning, floor plans, and even interior planning (a la Feng Shui).

Alas, it'll be some more decades before we begin to see new practices in these areas. Very sad.

Please read Desmond Morris: "The Human Zoo" (1969)
frajo
not rated yet Jul 17, 2010
even interior planning (a la Feng Shui)
Isn't that a bit, say, irrational?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.