Shutdown Imperils Costly Lab Mice, Years Of Research

Jon Hamilton | NPR | October 10, 2013

The government shutdown is likely to mean an early death for thousands of mice used in research on diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's.

Federal research centers including the National Institutes of Health will have to kill some mice to avoid overcrowding, researchers say. Others will die because it is impossible to maintain certain lines of genetically altered mice without constant monitoring by scientists. And most federal scientists have been banned from their own labs since Oct. 1.

"I'm sure it's chaos at the NIH for anyone doing mouse experiments," says Roger Reeves, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who uses hundreds of so-called transgenic mice in his work on Down syndrome.

NIH officials say they aren't doing media interviews. So Reeves and other scientists at Johns Hopkins agreed to talk about what a shutdown would mean for their lab animals and the research these animals make possible.