According to the Foundation for Biomedical Research, approximately 95% of all lab animals used for biomedical research are rats and mice. An indeed staggering number but have you ever wondered why? I mean, why so much preference for small rodents when it comes to science?
Well, we certainly did, so we decided to look for the answer. And as it turns out, there more than one reasons.
Let’s look at each separately: (the article continues after the ad)
THEIR GENETIC MAKE-UP CLOSELY RESEMBLES THOSE OF HUMANS
The biggest reason of course, has to do with their physiology and homology. Because rodents are mammals whose genetic make-up closely resembles that of a human person, the majority of the under-research questions can be replicated in mice and hence, provide scientists with reliable answers.Of course there are differences, but the similarities are strong enough to give a powerful mammalian system where researchers can investigate a human disease.
But if this was the only reason, why not use chimps instead? Well, because there are also other factors a laboratory should take into consideration.
MICE ARE SMALL AND EASILY MANAGED
It’s not easy to have 100 or more chimps available in a lab, right? But mice can be easily housed and maintained even in small rooms. Not only that, but mice can adapt very well to new surroundings thus eliminating any possible skewing of the results due to psychological factors.
And of course, there’s the reproduction issue.
MICE REPRODUCE EXTREMELY QUICKLY
Consider this: a single mouse produces an average of 7 litters annually. Each litter consists of 5-6 young therefore, a single mice can have more or less 40 baby mice a year. The incredible thing is that these babies can start reproducing in just 30 days after being born! Put that into the equation and you’ll soon find out that this is clearly a geometric progression that will give us a high number of population in no time.
This quick reproduction rate also reduces costs and makes mice relatively inexpensive animals that can be bough in large quantities from producers that breed them specifically for research purposes.
And this is why, mice and rats became the animal of choice for biomedical research!
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Sources: MGI – Biology of the Laboratory Mouse | Mice and Rats – The Essential Need for Animals in Medical Research | Laboratory Mice and Rats | Mouse Reproduction