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Rodent of the Week: Is this mouse in pain?

May 14, 2010 |  1:00 pm

Rodent Animal research is critical to advancing medical knowledge. But no one wants our furry friends to suffer. A new study published earlier this week shows that mice, like humans, express pain with facial expressions and that a "mouse grimace scale" can help ensure that animals used in laboratory testing do not suffer.

In the study, published online in the journal Nature Methods, McGill University psychology professor Jeffry S. Mogil used five physical features, such as eye closing, nose and cheek bulges and ear and whisker positions, to track the severity of pain. The rodent coding system can be used by scientists to improve the lives of their research subjects. Moreover, a specific pain scale that researchers can follow could lead to better treatments for pain conditions in humans, said Mogil, an expert in using facial features in humans to assess pain.

Rodent models are vital to research on pain, but there have been few methods for measuring spontaneous pain in the animals, the researchers noted. "The ability to reliably and accurately detect pain, in real time, using facial expression might offer a unique and powerful scientific tool in addition to having obvious benefits for veterinary medicine," they wrote.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Advanced Cell Technology Inc.