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April 20, 2007
Worst Animal Model: Nominations Are Open
I was talking to someone the other day about animal models, and that got me to thinking: there are several therapeutic areas with reasonably good ones, but which indication has the most useless ones?
Naturally, just getting a compound into mice or what have you is going to tell you a lot that you'd never learn otherwise. (Try predicting oral absorption and let me know how well you make out, for example). That's the rough equivalent of a Phase I for animal studies. But finding an animal model of disease (the rough equivalent of Phase II) is a lot trickier. (One of the better ones I can think of is diabetes, and even there you have to work carefully, because a mutant db/db mouse really didn't get to its condition by the same path a human type II patient did).
By "worst animal model", I mostly mean "least predictive". There are some that are a major pain to set up and run, but give you some data that you can at least believe in a bit, and I wouldn't put them in the same class. My nominee are the traditional models that have been used for Alzheimer's. No rodent (heck, no other animal at all) develops the real AD pathology, so there's one strike against you. Years of work on mutants of all stripes haven't (to my knowledge) been able to get around that problem.
And the disease is affecting higher brain functions that are very poorly modeled in any of the small animals, which is strike two. When I used to work in the field, I would occasionally wonder about the relevance of watching a rat ran into one half of his cage or another to a person forgetting an important appointment. Some of the techniques also have the lotsa-work factor going for them, too, like the infamous Morris Swim Maze, which needs its own special room, full of special equipment, and a full-time person trained in its complications to generate the data that you still don't quite trust.
So, that's my candidate. Readers are invited to submit their own - remember, arduous but trustworthy doesn't make the cut. The winner will be arduous and useless.
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