Of Mice and Men (and MS Research)

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by John Connor |

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The other day, I was watching an arts documentary instead of another repeat of a movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was about John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” of which I’m a fan. The headline for a column I’d been mulling for some time about MS mouse research pinged: Of course, “Of Mice and Men!”

It’s no longer politically correct, and indeed in relation to MS it should read, “Of Mice and Women and Some Men.”

Steinbeck isn’t even to blame for his title, which is based on Robert “Rabbie” Burns’ poem of 1785, “To a Mouse,” from which the saying, “The best laid schemes of mice and men,” originates. I had no idea — ask the internet the correct questions, and you can seem dead cultured!

In the last few months, every MS research article I’ve dived into has mice experiments at the core. I’ve read so many of them because of my other job here as co-moderator of the Multiple Sclerosis News Today Forums. I just bunged in “mice” as a search term on our main site and gave up counting when I got to 50 articles.

Now, how are these mouse models created, I hear you ask? Please don’t. A PhD in biology is needed.

However, there’s a mighty problem with all of this laudable work, as Live Science’s Yasemin Saplakoglu points out: “Neuroscientists face a major obstacle in developing drugs to treat brain disorders — if the drugs work really well on mice, they often fall short when humans are treated. Now, a new study suggests a potential reason why: Brain cells in mice turn on genes that are very different from the ones in human brain cells.”

In the interest of being a thorough journalist, I followed the link in this article to its source in the journal Nature. Here’s that link. Open it at your own risk, as my head still hurts!

I reckon if a mouse ever got MS, their chances of dealing with it medically would be excellent. Just need to track down a mouse neurologist. Hey, human ones are rare enough!

If you’ve glanced at my oeuvre (Yes, can I have that on some toast please?) in the last year, you know I became a vegan. I’ve mentioned it once or twice, thrice, and whatever the derivation for four might be. Yes, banged on about it. I didn’t do it for animal welfare reasons, but rather my own.

I did, however, stop consuming battery-cage eggs so long ago that in those days it was difficult to find free-range eggs in the supermarket. I got some free-range exercise looking for them! But that was it. Oh, and an organic turkey at Christmas. It was expensive, but they taste so much better.

I still have no idea if veganism has helped reduce inflammation in my brain. It has, however, generally helped in the egestion (Look it up!) department.

I never have objected to animal experimentation for medical purposes — except for tobacco. In the 1970s, animal activists were constantly liberating beagles that were forced to inhale cigarette smoke. The beagles must have spent the rest of their days dying for a smoke!

Oh, I also oppose experimenting with makeup on rabbits. (“Tell me about the rabbits, George!”) A rabbit is already cute, it doesn’t need eyeliner. Unless it’s trying to get a drink at the bar.

You’d think that with the chance of any mouse experiments working on humans being so infinitesimally low, I’d be the sort to just mention it and move on. I’ve never gambled, because the odds are always with the house. And I’ve always wanted to keep mine.

Yet, I always seek new treatments out. Some are quite legal and usually flogged as health supplements. So, I’ll give them a go (I’m not telling you to do this), till later research proves them useless, despite being quite pricy.

The thing is, many of these supplements that catch my eye have shown promise in mouse studies only to fail to show results in further testing. Yet, I’ll try them anyway. It’s a bit like playing the lottery. Although, at least with the lottery, eventually someone wins!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


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