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Conference on the Optimal Use of Mice and Rats in Aging Research

On December 10 and 11, 2019, NIA hosted a conference on the optimal use of mice and rats in aging research.


December 10, 2019
December 11, 2019


Lister Hill Auditorium
National Library of Medicine, Building 38A

Purpose and Background

Mice and rats have long been favorite animal models for aging research, because they are more closely related to humans than yeast, flies, or worms, and they are easier to study than other mammals because of their relatively small size and short life span. Rodent models also allow strict control of many variables that are difficult to control in human studies, and that could affect the trajectory of aging, including diet, life experiences, parity, and pharmaceutical exposures. Furthermore, comparison between the mouse and human genomes suggests that most human genetic diseases could be modeled by changes in equivalent genes in these rodents. Rodent studies have greatly contributed to our understanding of the life lengthening potential of specific genetic mutations, calorie restriction, and a number of drug interventions such as rapamycin, acarbose, and 17alpha-estradiol.

The full potential of rodent models for aging research, however, has been limited by inconsistent reproducibility, which is partly traceable to differences in the environmental conditions the animals experience – laboratory-specific variations in handling, housing, diet, water supply, and noise level, to name a few. This challenge may be even more severe in studies of old animals, for which age-related diseases and loss of resilience can amplify the effects of such factors. Variation among sites in interpretation of IACUC guidelines can also lead to variations in outcome of aging studies.

This 1.5 day meeting aimed at developing an understanding of current best practices for working with mice and rats for aging research, with the ultimate goal of improving standardization on what is working well, and correcting problem areas that might impede progress in this field. Topics included: (a) selection of species, strain, and sex for studies of aging; (b) influential effects of husbandry and testing conditions; (c) veterinary care and regulatory issues for aging and aged mice and rats; (e) evaluation and improvement of mouse and rat models for important human late-life diseases; (f) successes and failures of recent attempts for standardization among laboratories.

Additional Information

Watch the conference recording from Day 1.

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