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Benefits of Mice Over Fruit Flies

Posted on January 4, 2013

Colleen McClung (bio) discusses the benefits of using mice in research.

 

My graduate work was in fruit flies, and so mice actually seemed to be large to me compared to a fruit fly. And fruit flies definitely had their advantage, too, fabulous genetics, but I decided to move into mice because I felt like they had a lot more behavioral capabilities to do sort of more complex tasks and really look at cognitive function or reward-related behavior.

In a fruit fly, it's very difficult to look at anything beyond sort of basic locomotion or basic learning and memory. So we really prefer to work with mice, and, of course, they also have a lot of benefits over purely doing human studies in terms of molecular biology. So they've been a really great organism for us to use.

So moving from drosophila to mice, the most complicated thing is dealing with the increased regulation and writing animal protocols, sort of justifying everything that we do to the mice, which is very important. It's important to do these things, but it certainly makes it a lot more complicated for researchers as opposed to using a fruit fly, which doesn't fall under the same regulations and you sort of could do most anything you want with them. So that's been sort of the most difficult part, going from the fruit fly to the mouse.

That and the expense. It's a lot more expensive to work with mice than working with fruit flies, but definitely the advantages that it gives us in terms of behavioral studies makes it all worth it.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2012 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.

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