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Lab Mice

Did you know that the standard lab mouse these days is black, with a nice glossy coat?

Black Lab Mice in Cage

Photo: .snow (flickr)

Black lab mice were the first to be experimented on, but these days people tend to think of lab mice as white.

Did you know that the standard lab mouse these days is black, with a nice glossy coat?

In fact, it was a black mouse that went on the space shuttle, and was used in the mouse genome-sequencing project.

The reason: Jackson Laboratory in Maine made the mouse the number-one research model, and they happened to chose a black mouse as their standard.

Mice actually come in many colors, and scientists can order something like 3,300 varieties. Each different mouse strain serves as a model for a variety of human diseases and disorders. For instance, you can get a “knock-out” mouse, a mouse that comes with a deleted gene. They also have “knock-in” mice that have a gene added in, and “transgenic” mice, where they add in genes that mice don’t normally have in order to recreate human-only diseases.

To do experiments, it is crucial that scientists have a lot of mice that are all exactly the same. For this reason, mice are inbred for 20 generations, to create a colony of genetic twins. This process also gives them a very specific genetic profile, such as a model for human diabetes. It doesn’t take as long as you might think to produce the mice because they can have a litter every 21 days.

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