Mattson has seen this problem in his own field of research. Twenty years ago, scientists started to develop some new ways to prevent brain damage after a stroke. A neurotransmitter called glutamate had been identified as a toxin for affected nerve cells, and a number of drug companies started working on ways to block its effects. The new medicines were tested in rats and mice with great success—but what worked in rodents failed in people. After a series of time-consuming and expensive clinical trials, the glutamate-blockers were declared a bust: They offered no benefit to human stroke patients.
Now Mattson has an idea for why the drugs didn't pan out: All the original test-animals were chubby. If there's something about the brain of an obese, sedentary rodent that amplifies the effects of a glutamate-blocker, that would explain why the drugs worked for a population of lab animals but not in the more diverse set of human patients. This past June, he published a paper confirming the hunch: When he put his test mice on a diet before administering the glutamate-blockers, the drugs' magical effects all but disappeared.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Medical Science and Fat Lab Mice
Medical scientist argues that many of our medical studies are wrong because they use fat, overfed, sedentary mice as models rather than healthy mice: