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The Science Blog

01/05/2013

Mice can cough – an ill-fated discovery

Researchers in China have recently published details of an experiment which claims to show that mice display behaviour similar to that of coughing in humans. The findings could lead to mice being used in research to develop new cough syrups and other cough suppressing remedies. 

In the experiment, mice were exposed to a mist of capsaicin, an irritant found in chilli peppers. After the exposure, the mice were placed in a machine that is capable of detecting changes in body volume in order to monitor when air moved in and out of their bodies. Using this machine and tiny microphones, the scientists were able to identify ‘explosive’ sounds that occurred alongside head-tossing, abdominal jerking and open mouths – in other words, the mice were, according to the researchers, coughing. The mice were then force-fed cough suppressants, including codeine through a tube down their throats, after which the coughing apparently subsided. 

Guinea pigs are usually the species of choice for this type of research and are currently being forced to suffer to research therapies for coughing; a condition that is in no means life-threatening to humans. Appallingly, instead of supporting a move towards humane and human-relevant research, such as work with human volunteers, scientists seem to favour a switch to mice simply because they are cheap, small and easy to manipulate. 

Source:

1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2302280/How-arsenal-sensitive-instruments-needed-discover-cough-thats-quiet-mouse.html

2. Original article can be found here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0059263 

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