A theft of valuable mice from a science lab will set back important cancer research at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Campus officials are investigating the theft of 20 “nude” mice that students raised for six months in preparation for research.
The nude, or hairless, mice do not have immune systems and are commonly used to study human tumors. Because of their lack of immunity, researchers fear the mice may already be dead.
MSUM students were going to spend the next year using the mice to study a drug that may slow the growth of aggressive lung cancer tumors, said chemistry professor Joseph Provost.
“The work the students are doing is fantastic,” Provost said. “We really think we see something that’s going to have a real high impact.”
But now it will be at least another six months of acquiring new mice and breeding them in a sterile environment before the research can move forward, he said.
A student researcher discovered the mice, as well as the multiple cages they were in, missing on July 19.
They were taken from a secure lab few people have access to, Provost said.
Other mice, as well as expensive equipment, were not taken from the lab, he said.
The mice would not be able to survive outside of a sterile environment, Provost said.
Though the mice are expensive, there would be no market to sell them, Provost said.
Michael Parks, MSUM’s campus security director, said he’s investigating the crime as a burglary or felony-level theft because the mice are worth $2,500.
It’s unclear how someone gained access to the lab, Parks said.Officials will review security procedures to ensure that research on campus is protected, he said.
“It’s more than just the theft of the mice,” Parks said. “It has far-reaching implications for the university.”
Facts on nude mice
- The nude mouse, discovered in 1962, gets its name because it is hairless.
- It is a genetic mutant that does not have an immune system.
- Nude mice are used for cancer research because they allow human tumors to be studied in animals.
- The nude mice missing from MSUM cost $125 each, plus about $1,000 to ship them overnight.
Source: University of California Center for Animal Alternatives