Lab Mice: The Hidden Casualties of Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy disrupted the lives of millions as it swept through the eastern U.S. last week. Cities were flooded, power was cut, and billions in damage were done. We’ve already told you about the pests that thrive after a massive storm or flood.Many of them will probably be active in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, Sandy also brought the demise of several thousand helpful pest animals.
It’s rare that anyone laments the deaths of mice or other rodents. Scientists at New York University’s research laboratories are doing just that, however. When Sandy soaked New York, the University’s research facilities got hit hard. The loss of power damaged temperature-sensitive research, and flooding drowned thousands of research rodents.
The mice were being used for a variety of experiments, many of the medically related. Scientists say the loss of the rodents could set back their progress several years. Lab mice are often carefully bred over several generations to achieve specific genetic traits. Many of the mice at NYU were being specially bred for cancer research. Replacing them won’t be easy. Worse, it sets back potential breakthroughs in cancer cures until the animals can be replaced.
Though pests are considered unwanted in your home or yard, they can also be beneficial to humans. Because they are generally reviled, most people don’t mind rodents getting experimented on. Scientists regularly test on small rodents before moving on to larger mammals and eventually people. Small as they are, mice are still genetically similar to people in many ways and can give observers a good idea how a chemical or condition will affect humans.
In normal circumstances, mice will survive without a problem in floods. In fact, you should be on the lookout for rats and mice if your property ever spends time underwater. Rodents are usually good swimmers, and the vermin have no problem finding food and shelter in the aftermath. In this case, however, the animals were all caged up and unable to escape the rising flood waters.
What’s next for the NYU scientific department? They’ll have to start over with a fresh batch of lab animals. Other universities that have been collaborating on certain projects may be able to contribute to the new efforts. Still, it’s likely to take a while before things are back to normal.