Readers React: No female mice in lab research? Nothing’s changed

A laboratory mouse climbs on the gloved hand of a technician.
(Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press)

To the editor: The article on the avoidance of female mice in neuroscience research proves to me that nothing has changed in more than 40 years.

In the late 1970s, as a brand new graduate student in neurosciences at MIT getting ready to do my first experiment, I ordered equal numbers of male and female rats, because it never occurred to me to do otherwise.

My research advisor admonished me that no one included female rats in studies because we would need to include four times more females than males to account for possible effects of cyclic estrogen levels. But you can’t return lab rats to the store, and, lo and behold, we discovered female rats indeed responded differently from males.

I foolishly assumed other researchers learned something from my experience, until a couple of years ago when I discovered (as a research reviewer) that no one had systematically studied gender differences in the effectiveness of drugs used to treat alcohol use disorder in humans — and now this article appears.


Trust me, no one is served by assuming men’s physiology is the same as women’s.

Sydne Jennifer Newberry, San Pedro

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