In the research world, a mouse is not a computer peripheral. In the pharmaceutical and university labs, a mouse is still a mouse. Four legs, furry, and cuddly if you’re not fussy.
Would you believe? Lab mice have gone hi-tech.
Lab mice are expensive. They are not run-of-the-barn field mice. Instead, they are bred under strict controls for several reasons. Some experiments call for mice of one gender or the other.
Some need mice bred for certain genes or anomalies.
And, still others have been inbred to assure homogeneity. As reported in eMice, the source of electronic Models Information, Communication, and Education, “it is quite straightforward to develop genetically identical mice by inbreeding.These mice can be used to replicate one’s own experiments over time, and to compare results with other labs using identical mice.”
LiveScience reiterates this value when they add, “Scientists can now breed genetically-altered mice called ‘transgenic mice’ that carry genes that are similar to those that cause human diseases.”
Caring for lab mice
The Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) accredits businesses, universities, and other research laboratories based on their compliance with guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published rules on the treatment to research animals. And, the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) at the National Institutes of Health promulgates its set of similar rules.
Among other effects, these accreditations, certifications, and rules determine eligibility for research grants and funding,
So, research facilities may be more concerned than you think about discipline in the care and treatment of lab mice.
Managing treatment and care
In addition to doing all the paperwork required by standards, labs have some daily concerns. According to analysts at RapID Lab, metal mice ear tags “can be easily misapplied and are often misread, with sometimes serious consequences.”
Manually applied metal tags are alternatives to tattooing and notching ears or tails. But, they are susceptible to infection and being torn away by other mice.
Pricey microchip transponders are inserted surgically and have a record of relocating in the animal and contributing to cancer among the mice.
The repeated and unnecessary handling of mice for surgery and sorting creates anxiety in the animals. So, researchers are looking for identification methods that provide a unique identifier, that handlers can recognize without handling, and that archives data for integration with research studies.
A biologically inert, medical grade, polymer ID tag virtually eliminates the chance of infection. Administered correctly without anesthesia and with minimal pain, it can be attached and removed easily and, then, sterilized by autoclave for reuse.
With a square 2-D scannable barcode, it can hold and transmit the data unique to the specific animal, breeding strain, provider source, and testing experience.
Selected by color, the bright ID tags are easily recognized, and that alone reduces unnecessary and problematic handling.
And, as polymers, the tags do not interfere with MRI scans or x rays.
Cost-effective common sense
Mishandled lab mice suffer needlessly, and their mistreatment effectively damages the research and its outcomes. Traumatized mice simply do not provide reliable test results.
Inefficient identification methods are costly by definition. They lead to repeated testing that increase costs and effectively discounts the lab project.
Inaccurate data, coming from mishandling or misreading, leads to more time spent on problem solving and recalculations.
And, labs are finding themselves replacing damaged and otherwise mice for additional expenses.
So, any solution good for the mice is good for the research. Hi-tech is stepping up to solve the problem in the interest of both.
Michael F. Carroll
Title: Freelance writer at OutreachMama
Mike is a freelance contributor to OutreachMama and Youth Noise NJ who helps businesses find their audience online through research, content copy, and white papers. He frequently writes about management, marketing, and sales with customized outreach for digital marketing channels and outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.