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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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April 29, 2014

Mice Hate Men

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Posted by Derek

The difficulty of doing good animal studies has come up here many times, such as the recent suggestion that many rodent facilities should adjust their thermostats.

Now comes word of yet another subtle effect that no one has ever controlled for: mice apparently react different to the scent of human males as compared to human females. Specifically, we guys stress them out more, an effect that shows up in assays of pain and inflammation (and likely many others besides). Here's the paper in Nature Methods, and I think that anyone running rodent studies had better sit down and read it at the first opportunity. There could well be a lot of messed-up data out there, and straightening things out will not be a short job.

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Animal Testing


1. bluefoot on April 29, 2014 9:00 AM writes...

That's interesting, but perhaps not surprising. Back when I managed a lab that ran behavioral assays, we saw a definite effect on the data on certain days, which we traced to one of the research associates. We discovered the effect only happened when she was wearing a particular perfume. Thankfully, we used to track *everything* and every quarter we would look at all the data for that quarter vs. the averages for the quarter and "lifetime" so detecting and figuring out the problem did not take very long.

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2. ROGI on April 29, 2014 9:05 AM writes...

Other way around. The mice like the guys better.

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3. Justin on April 29, 2014 9:11 AM writes...

Remember the old W.C. Fields saying, "Never work with children or animals." There's truth in that.

Rats and mice are quick learners, too, especially in pain assays like the hotplate.

I'd say animal studies are responsible for the beginning of and termination of VC funding.

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4. NJBiologist on April 29, 2014 9:14 AM writes...

This isn't a journal I have access to--can anyone who does tell me how the magnitude of these effects compares to a model or to a treatment? The last time Mogil's group published on something like this, they were finding plus/minus a second or two of withdrawal latency attributable to experimenter, when inflammatory agents would decrease latency 6-8 seconds and narcotics would increase latency 20-30 seconds.

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5. Dr Manhatan on April 29, 2014 10:13 AM writes...

The US Government should step in and prosecute these mice! Clearly they are violating several equal rights and right to work laws. Men in labs that use mice could lose their jobs and be denied other opportunities to work in laboratory settings. If you let the mice get away with it, next time it will be the dogs...

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6. the secret of NIHM on April 29, 2014 10:26 AM writes...

John Steinbeck published this back in 37!?

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7. Curious Wavefunction on April 29, 2014 10:36 AM writes...

Husband to Wife: "See, you stress even *mice* more than I do. No wonder you are so difficult to live with."

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8. Rhenium on April 29, 2014 10:45 AM writes...

Feynmann pointed out almost exactly the same issue in his essay on "Cargo Cult" science regarding psychology maze tests in rats.

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9. annon on April 29, 2014 10:56 AM writes...

Interesting, they act just like some humans.

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10. Jim Hu on April 29, 2014 11:29 AM writes...

Coincidentally, I yesterday was listening to a This American Life episode that included a story about humane production of foie gras, that involved geese that acted like they were not domesticated. The Spanish farmer was convinced that handling the chicks imparted information to them through oils in the farmers hands.

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11. Reverend J on April 29, 2014 12:14 PM writes...

Wait, are you tells me that mice still aren't people? Color me shocked!

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12. Luigi on April 29, 2014 1:36 PM writes...

@8 - Rhenium - think you've misquoted the Feynman story - sound was the issue - not pheromones.

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13. Anonymous on April 29, 2014 1:43 PM writes...

I don't have access to this journal. Hopefully it's a well controlled double blind study. Which makes me wonder - how did they blind the experimenter to their own gender?

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14. Anton on April 29, 2014 8:09 PM writes...

"Derek Lowe, a chemist and blogger with a Ph.D. from Duke University, said he sympathizes with people who are surprised these ingredients are food, but he said he has "no patience" with the general argument, "I can't pronounce it, so I won't eat it."

"There's nothing on this list I have a problem eating," he said."

I have my doubts that he is a chemist

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15. Anonymous on April 29, 2014 9:38 PM writes...

A couple of dabs of Channel # 5 behind the ears and they shouldn't be able to tell men from women. Then again, perhaps cross dressing may also be effective. The things we have to do for science LOL

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16. Anonymous on April 29, 2014 9:55 PM writes...

Hey Anton, layoff Derek...he's a good guy!

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17. Insilicoconsulting on April 29, 2014 10:24 PM writes...

It's males of any species except mice themselves! Not only male experimenters.

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18. HipsterRunoff on April 30, 2014 1:46 AM writes...

Pretty sure there's an "Of Mice and Men" joke to be inserted somewhere here...

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19. Rhenium on April 30, 2014 11:05 AM writes...

@12, Luigi. Correct, I was just pointing out the variables scientists never think of...

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20. Dogbertd on May 1, 2014 3:34 AM writes...

The little buggers never missed a chance to bite me, that's for sure...

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