Why IS The Mouse a Scientist’s Best Friend?

Sources claim that scientific research on animals has been practiced since at least 500 BC, with the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) stating that around 95% of all lab animals are mice and rats.

Mice and humans share about 97.5% of their DNA, and have been responsible for many of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine, advancing our understanding of breast cancer, brain injury, childhood leukaemia, cystic fibrosis, malaria, multiple sclerosis and tuberculosis.

The mouse was the first non-human mammal to have its genome sequenced, which revealed that there are only 21 genes in human DNA that do not have a direct counterpart in mouse DNA, and only 14 genes unique to mice that are not found in humans.

A 2013 article in The Conversation on the role of the mouse in 21st Century science defined three main purposes:

  • To aid understanding of the functional parts of the genome
  • To act as models for the study of human disease
  • To aid development of genomic-based therapies for human disease

Laboratory mice also live for only 2 or 3 years, giving researchers the opportunity to study the effects of treatments or genetic manipulation across a whole lifespan or even over several generations, which is not feasible in human subjects. Mice adapt well to new surroundings, can be easily houses and handled and are relatively inexpensive to buy and keep.

 

Red Wine & Chocolate – ‘No Health Benefits’

A new study has cast doubt upon the health benefits of the antioxidant, resveratrol, found in dark chocolate and red wine.

Resveratrol has no significant impact on life-span, heart disease or cancer, say scientists. It cannot explain the “French Paradox” – the low incidence of heart disease suffered by people in France despite a diet laden with cholesterol and saturated fat, they believe.

The lead researcher of the study, Professor Richard Semba, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, said ‘the story of resveratrol turns out to be another case where you get a lot of hype about health benefits that doesn’t stand the test of time’.

However, some animal studies have suggested that in high doses the compound may have benefits like reducing inflammation.

A belief of the health benefits of resveratrol has led to a plethora of supplements containing the compound.

Could AstraZeneca’s New Drug Replace Chemotherapy?

The AstraZeneca drug MEDI4736 was revealed on Wednesday night as a “new great white hope” in the fight against cancer as it took centre stage in the British company’s battle against Pfizer‘s planned £63bn takeover.

It is this drug, developed in Cambridge and Maryland, that AstraZeneca chief executive, Pascal Soriot, was referring to when he warned MPs that an aggressive cost-cutting transaction could delay development and cost lives.

AstraZeneca’s head drug developer, Briggs Morrison, believes the drug could “hold the potential to shape the future of cancer treatment” and rake in annual sales of up to £3.9bn.

MEDI4736 works by stripping cancer cells of their “stealth cloak” so that the patient’s immune system can detect and kill tumours, and could replace chemotherapy in some cases.

Coca-Cola to Remove Controversial Substance from Beverages

Following an e-petition, Coca-Cola plans to remove the controversial ingredient, BVO, from some of its US drinks brands.

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is found in some of Coca-Cola’s fruit and sports drinks, including Fanta and Powerade.

BVO was dropped from the US Food and Drug Administration’s “Generally Recognised as Safe” list of food ingredients in 1970, and Coca-Cola’s rival, Pepsi, removed the chemical from its Gatorade sports drink in 2013.

In Japan and the European Union, the use of BVO as a food additive is not allowed.

Excessive consumption of soft drinks containing the BVO chemical has been linked to negative health effects, including memory loss and skin and nerve problems.