Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mouses in Houses

Mice are very adept at invading our homes. Even if we never see them, a new study suggests that they may have left their calling cards, to the detriment of our health.

This article describes a study in which investigators found detectable levels of mouse allergens in 82% of the 800 homes they sampled. They suggest that mouse allergen might be an unrecognized trigger for asthma.

The allergen was most frequently found on the kitchen floor. Understandable.

Allergen was also commonly found on beds. Ick.

I have anecdotal evidence of mice in my house (see this and this), so I imagine my house is chock full of allergen, which can't be good for my asthma.

The solution might be obvious...get a cat.

But I'm allergic to 'em.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Surfing Mice

What can I say?

Spiny Mice

For 100 years, scientists have been studying mice in the laboratory. Usually they are the highly inbred kind, like albino Balb/c mice or black C57BL/6 mice. Often, they have been genetically manipulated in some way to serve the purposes of the investigators. But basically, they are still the same thing. Lab mice.

Some experiments call for a different kind of mouse. Here's a study that uses spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus). From the picture above you can see that they are not your typical lab mice. Their eyes are bigger, for one thing, like those of wild mice. (Lab mice seem to have lost the visual acuity of their wild cousins, not needing to see and avoid predators to survive.)

They are called spiny mice because their guard hairs are stiff, giving them a prickly coat. Mind you, I've never touched one, myself. Some say they are related more closely to gerbils than to mice.

Why use these mice instead of cheap, available, run of the mill lab mice? The study looked at the the ability of the pups to tolerate oxygen deprivation at birth. They used spiny mice because they are more mature at birth than lab mice, more like human babies. Their eyes are open, for example, and their brains are more developed.

As for the findings, the pups were protected from brain damage by supplementing the diets of the pregnant mothers with creatine, that stuff that body builders take to bulk up their muscles.

I could make a comment here about the brains of body builders, but I won't.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In Search of 3,200 White Females

White female mice, that is. And they must weigh between 16 and 18 grams.

In a story that's circulating around the blogosphere, Russia's Federal Guard Service has placed an ad offering $20,000 for these mice, without specifying a reason for the request.

Theories have been proposed about the potential fate of the mice, ranging from falcon fodder to mini-spies outfitted with mini-cameras.

But why white?
I don't imagine a white mouse would make a good spy, as it would not blend in very well.

And why female?
Do falcons prefer the taste of female mice?

Is it for science or skulduggery?

Or is it just something to catch the interest of bored bloggers?