New scientific research, published by Junhee Seok, et al. in the February 2013 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, casts grave doubt on the safety testing for hundreds of thousands of consumer products, including food additives and industrial chemicals. Medical researchers found pharmaceutical treatments that worked with mice in the study of inflammatory causes of disease (including diabetes, asthma and arthritis). Yet when used by humans these drugs have had a 100% failure rate in almost 150 clinical trials.
In a first set of experiments the researchers looked at acute inflammation in mice brought on by various stimuli. The researchers found that changes in activity of a particular mouse gene after drug treatment typically failed to predict changes in activity in the related human gene. If humans and mice are meaningfully similar, then gene activity changes in mice should have closely resembled those in humans after a similar challenge. But they did not. Repeated experiments confirmed that, when it comes to inflammation, mice and humans have little in common. This is important given the prevalence of inflammation-related diseases in humans.
The lack of concordance means that the synthetic chemicals that are found in industrial products, incorporated into food, and otherwise spread throughout the environment, are essentially untested for human outcomes. Although the Seok study is not the first to conclude that mice are poor models for human disease studies, it is notable for being comprehensive and definitive.
Pat Dutt and Jonathan Latham, “The Experiment is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt,” Independent Science News, May 6, 2013, http://www.independentsciencenews.org/news/the-experiment-is-on-us-animal-toxicology-testing-science/#more-1619.
Junhee Seok, H. Shaw Warren, […], and Wing H Wong, “Genomic Responses in Mouse Models Poorly Mimic Human Inflammatory Diseases,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(9):3507-3512, February 26, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3587220/.
Student Researcher: Marina Swenson (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)