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Mice Hate Men

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.

20 comments on “Mice Hate Men”

  1. bluefoot says:

    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.

  2. ROGI says:

    Other way around. The mice like the guys better.

  3. Justin says:

    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.

  4. NJBiologist says:

    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.

  5. Dr Manhatan says:

    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…

  6. the secret of NIHM says:

    John Steinbeck published this back in 37!?

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

  8. Rhenium says:

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

  9. annon says:

    Interesting, they act just like some humans.

  10. Jim Hu says:

    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.

  11. Reverend J says:

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

  12. Luigi says:

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

  13. Anonymous says:

    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?

  14. Anton says:

    “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

  15. Anonymous says:

    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

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hey Anton, layoff Derek…he’s a good guy!

  17. Insilicoconsulting says:

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

  18. HipsterRunoff says:

    Pretty sure there’s an “Of Mice and Men” joke to be inserted somewhere here…

  19. Rhenium says:

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

  20. Dogbertd says:

    The little buggers never missed a chance to bite me, that’s for sure…

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