- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2001

I can't decide if scientists are trying to develop a perfect mouse or if they are trying to make us more like mice. Every week we find another mouse breakthrough. Last week they announced that they could make mice more intelligent. I suppose this is good news for people with diseases of the brain, but if some of these smart mice should escape and reproduce, it could be trouble for all of us. It's hard enough to catch a stupid mouse without having to match wits with an intelligent one.

This week scientists have developed a drug that can cause weight loss in obese mice. Why mice are used to test these drugs instead of monkeys is beyond me. We are supposed to be cousins or at least look-alikes to the monkey. What we have in common with mice is nothing I really want to know. Even the lowly pig is said to have organs that can be used to replace our own. What have mice got that make them indicators of what is good and bad for human consumption? I hope it's not just because they are cheap and easy to feed.

The new development to slim down fat mice may or may not work on humans. This always seems to be the case when scientists break the news about some new drug. Why do they tease us with these unproved developments? What will the slimmed down mouse look like five years from now? Will there be any side effects with the new drug? Can't these press releases wait until they have a better understanding of the long-term effects? It is wrong to give false hope to millions of obese people.

A fat person reading a news release about a drug that will burn their fat away might think they can continue to eat all they please because they will soon have a fat antidote. A drug at the mouse stage may be 10 years away from finding its way into your pharmacy, if ever. The move from mice to men is a slow process, and even when completed, has often resulted in drug recalls down the road. Releasing the results of experimental drugs on mice should be put on hold.

In the case of the fat-burning drug announced this week, how can they be sure that instead of burning fat, the drug is not simply making the mouse nauseated and ruining his appetite? They stuff the little rodent with all kinds of goodies to fatten him up and then start injecting him with some chemical that supposedly causes his muscles to burn fat at a high rate. I want to know if feeling nauseated would increase my metabolism, because they may just be making the mouse sick to his stomach.

The new drug is a form of human protein and has been developed here in the United States at one of our prestigious universities. It will be tested on humans in Europe, which makes a lot of sense to me. I suppose there are too many groups in this country that object to any kind of experimentation on animals or humans, mice excluded. Let's hope the drug is a success and we will no longer have to put up with the fat police interfering with our lives.

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