Environmental factors can improve reproducibility

At a meeting on improving mouse models of disease held last week at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge, scientists and technicians came together to discuss opportunities to improve the reproducibility of research results obtained using mouse models. Nature reported on some of the environmental and biological factors that affect mouse studies.

Diet is one of the environmental factors that can affect animal study outcomes. Image: Rama

More and more research is emerging to show the effects of the microbiome on the body, so controlling lab animals’ diet is imperative. Mice are nocturnal animals, so it is important to take their circadian rhythms into account, especially when performing cognitive tests. Physiology and reaction to for example candidate drugs can differ between animals of different sex or age. And in female mice, the reproductive cycle can affect results.

These and many more factors need to be kept in mind when designing and carrying out experiments using animals. Laboratory animal breeders are starting to supply labs with detailed food and care instructions, and there is a move towards more exhaustive reporting requirements in animal research. These and other measures will improve reproducibility of animal studies, thereby increasing the validity of animal models in biomedical science.

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