Lab mice are sensitive to their cages

July 16, 2010 at 11:03 PM

BOULDER, Colo., July 16 (UPI) -- The brains of mice in research labs are affected by the cages they're kept in, researchers say, which could skew the results of experiments.

Mice are the main research mammals worldwide and promising breakthroughs in the fields of cancer, genetics and neuroscience depend on tests in which they are used, ScienceDaily.com reported Friday.

"We assume that mice used in laboratories are all the same, but they are not," Diego Restrepo, director of the Neuroscience Program at the University of Colorado, said. "When you change the cages you change the brains and that affects the outcomes of research."

Researchers rely on careful comparison of experimental results from different lab experiments to confirm discoveries, but some of these comparisons may not be trustworthy, Restrepo said.

The brains of mice are extremely sensitive to environments and can physically change when moved from a cage or enclosure where air circulates freely to one where it doesn't, he said.

That can affect the accuracy of research, so two labs doing the same experiments may get totally different results and never know why, he said.

The consequences could derail important research or see promising research abandoned simply due to the design of a mouse cage, ScienceDaily.com reported.

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