I touched the subject of ethical conduct within research before (The ethics in a search for a cure), that was about stem cells. This time I want to look into the use of lab animals and specifically the use of mice for type 1 diabetes research. Is the use of mice necessary, is it justified and how are they dealt with?
In any research associated with diseases, animal models are indispensable. They form the stage between in vitro tests and clinical trials (on humans). Usually, for research on type 1 diabetes, a mouse called the NOD mouse is used in the lab. NOD stands for Non-Obese Diabetic mouse. These mice show a tendency towards spontaneously developing autoimmune mediated type 1 diabetes. Not only does this make it less complicated for the researcher but it is also a far more ethical way of working as the mice are not exposed to an environment where type 1 diabetes is induced. The figure shows the tendency of the mice to develop diabetes. Environmental factors like the diet, housing conditions and health status can all induce the disease. Furthermore, mice that obtain induced diabetes are more prone to develop other autoimmune diseases as well.
Of course these NOD-mice are not completely spontaneously developing type 1 diabetes. It’s the result of multiple cross-and inbreeds from mice with genes that had other diseases to start with. Mice that generally have elevated fasting blood glucose levels are said to be prediabetic. Nevertheless, using NOD-mice is far less stressful for the mice as they do not need to experience the whole process of inducing the diabetes artificially.