A mouse is not just a mouse

The eye disease Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most frequent cause of vision loss and blindness among elderly people in the Western world.

The most aggressive form is so-called ‘wet AMD’ — a disease in which the formation of new blood vessels in the underlying choroid of the retina results in fluid and swelling in the eye.

In a new study from Aarhus University which has just been published in the scientific journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS), the authors have examined the past five years of studies in a model for the disease corresponding to 380 scientific articles. Research into the mechanisms behind the disease — and thus the development of new treatment modalities — is often based on laboratory animals, in which new blood vessels are artificially created in the retina, typically using lasers.

The review of the many studies shows an imbalance in the use of laboratory animals; researchers usually choose to use young, healthy male mice, even though they know that both the sex and the age of the mice play a role in the degree of vessel formation.

“It is predominantly young, healthy, male mice that are used for research on this type of vessel formation. This makes sense from an ethical, financial and time perspective, as mice are inexpensive compared with larger laboratory animals, and the studies can be carried out relatively quickly. The biological variation can also be limited. However, AMD is a disease that most frequently occurs in the elderly population, and the disease occurs just as frequently in women — perhaps even slightly more frequently, when you look at ‘wet AMD’,” says medical doctor and PhD student Bjørn K. Fabian-Jessing, who is first author on the study.

Previous studies have shown a discrepancy between the treatment effects seen in animal studies and in clinical trials in humans.

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