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Mice are the crucial key to drug quests

When it comes to the price of mice, you pay more for defects. A mouse with arthritis runs close to $200; two pairs of epileptic mice can cost 10 times that. You want three blind mice? That?ll run you about $250.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2006 15:49 IST

When it comes to the price of mice, you pay more for defects. A mouse with arthritis runs close to $200; two pairs of epileptic mice can cost 10 times that. You want three blind mice? That’ll run you about $250.

And for your own custom mouse, with the genetic modification of your choosing, expect to pay as much as $100,000. Always a mainstay of scientific research, mice have become a critical tool in the quest for new drugs and medical treatments.

It turns out that a mouse’s genes are so similar to a person’s that with proper manipulation either by man or nature they can produce an animal with an ailment akin to virtually any human medical condition.

Mice with Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and countless other ailments are being used to study both the illnesses themselves and potential treatments. As many as 25 million mice are now used in experiments each year.

Where do they come from? From the mouse industry, of course. There are many vendors: The Jackson Laboratory, a supplier in Bar Harbor, Maine, ships more than 2 million a year. Commercial breeder Charles River Laboratories, Wilmington, makes about $500 million annually, selling and caring for lab animals, mostly mice.

Yet the mouse business is a challenging one. What was once a relatively simple business of breeding and shipping animals has become an extremely challenging enterprise that requires cutting-edge technology and a mastery of difficult logistics.

First Published: Mar 06, 2006 15:49 IST