Transgenic Rats as Research Models Boast Significant Benefits over Mouse Counterparts

Though much of today’s rodent-based research is performed using mouse models, the reality is that if we look back, many of the most impactful physiology, neurophysiology and neuroscience studies, including much of the Nobel Prize-winning place cell work, were historically done in rats. As murine research becomes increasingly sophisticated, researchers are quickly realizing that mice have some significant limitations as a research model. Not only are rats larger in size than mice, but they are also physiologically and genetically more similar to humans, which, according to researchers, allows for transgenic rat models to better replicate the spectrum of human pathology.

 

Additionally, a recent study of adult neurogenesis published in eNeuro by Snyder, et al indicates that advantages in behavioral testing may provide the greatest motivation for making the switch to rats as a research model. This notion is nothing new, however. According to a 2004 article by Alison Abbot, published in Nature, “Cognitive scientists in general are increasingly embracing the rat as an idea behavioral test subject for a broad spectrum of behavioral studies, arguing that they are capable of more complex tasks than mice but with greater potential for genetic manipulation than nonhuman primates.”

 

Though Snyder, et al created a new transgenic rat strain that would allow them to completely and selectively inhibit adult neurogenesis in two specific brain regions – the hippocampus and the subventricular zone-olfactory bulb – the reality is that transgenic rats have the ability to be effectively used across a wide variety of research applications. Preclinical studies of bone and nervous system sarcomas, metabolic syndromes, neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease, HIV and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), have all used transgenic rat models as a way of better understanding human disease pathology, and we are confident that as increasingly more transgenic rat models are created, the possibilities for novel research is tremendous.