Lab animal wars: Scientists blast living conditions of stolen mouse models

After recent animal-rights victories, scientists on the other side of the fight have used photographs from activists to criticize their detractors in the activist community. Photos appeared online that depict the new digs for lab mice taken during a break-in at the University of Milan in Italy. As a Nature blog reported, scientists have harped on what appear to be substandard living conditions for the rodents, some of which have been genetically modified to serve as models of diseases.

The online photos show several animal containers in someone's bathroom. Whether these are substandard living conditions could be subject to interpretation, yet research advocates have made hay out of the images.

"If these photos show the actual conditions of the stolen mice, we're seriously concerned about their well-being and health: we don't think that these animals are faring better now than when they were in the laboratory," Daria Giovannoni, president of the pro-science lobby group Pro-Test Italia, said, as quoted by Nature.

Research advocates have made the case that animal models are invaluable to the development of new treatments for human disease, and removing them as options for experimentation would have obvious ramifications for the progress of research. However, the NIH and others have recently handed victories to animal rights activists by scaling back or abandoning the use of some large primates in studies.

While years from replacing animals entirely, advancements in stem cell science and nanotechnology provide opportunities to create non-animal models of disease. In fact, curing disease in mice has been a notoriously unreliable predictor of the success of treatments in humans. And scientists are always hunting for better models for experiments.

- here's the Nature blog

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