Scientists are creating a 'virtual mouse brain' model that has potential to eliminate the need for testing on rodents in labs.
Animal testing is a very touchy subject to dispute. On one hand, the process has contributed to many medical advancements which have significantly improved all of our lives, but on another, innocent creatures are subject to a wide range of experiments that can be both cruel and painful.
The main reasons scientists have yet to retire this method of experimentation is because they lack an adequate alternative. But thanks to a team of brilliant researchers working on the Human Brain Project, a suitable alternative might soon exist.
Researchers at the Human Brain Project are building a virtual mouse that will be an exact computer model of the real thing so that future medical research can be modeled as accurately as if it were done on a real mouse. Such advancement would help save hundreds of thousands of rodent lives, specifically by replacing live mice in medical testing arenas.
As shared on TreeHugger, ‘The scientists are collecting their data points from biological data collected by the Allen Brain Institute in Seattle and the Biomedical Informatics Research Network in San Diego.’ Integrating various type of data into this one model to make it richly layered, they expect inevitable advances in technology will continue to make the model more and more realistic.
At present, the team has been able to map 200,000 neurons in the mouse brain to the corresponding points in the body that would stimulate them. For example, touching the virtual mouse’s whiskers activates the corresponding parts of the mouse sensory cortex.
With 75 million neurons in the tiny mouse brain, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the researchers are optimistic by their progress and will continue gathering data quickly in order to propel this project. The first version of software is expected to be released to collaborators in April.
Once the virtual mouse computer model is ready, they will share it with the scientific community around the world. The development of the virtual mouse brain, along with other technological advancements like 3D-printed human cells, could lead to the end of animal testing forever.
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