Fat rats not fit for testing

Rats and mice, the most commonly used animals in biomedical research, are critical parts of drug testing. But most of the animals are ill-suited for the job because they’re “overfed, unfit and obese,” argued Mark Mattson, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, in a recent issue of New Scientist.

And unhealthy (f)lab rats may lead to erroneous experimental results, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

“Drugs shown to be effective in couch-potato rodents may prove ineffective — or have side effects — in fit and healthy subjects, while promising drugs may be thrown out before ever being tested properly because they don’t work in couch-potato animals,” Mattson said.

When mice and rats are given little chance to exercise and unlimited quantities of food, “they develop a range of health problems, including insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, impaired brain function, increased oxidative stress and inflammation,” Mattson said.

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