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back to article Lab mice drown in their THOUSANDS as Hurricane Sandy fills NYU basement

New York University's collection of thousands of laboratory mice and rats drowned during Hurricane Sandy's ferocious storms. The rodents were trapped in the basement of the institution's Kips Bay Smilow research centre, where they perished, the New York Times reported. Staff were unable to rescue the creatures, which had been …

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Headmaster

Tragic waste of research of course

But this is a university. Did no-one notice the widespread warnings about flooding, and think to move the poor little buggers upstairs?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tragic waste of research of course

Quite - there were plenty of warnings. Did the university think it was too important to take notice of them.

My sympathy is with the rodents.

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Silver badge

Re: Tragic waste of research of course

Spend much time with the intellectual elite and you'll find they have surprisingly little sense.

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Boffin

Re: Tragic display of manifest ignorance

Most research rodents are housed in purpose built facilities in built in racks with their own air supplies keeping the mice and rats isolated and infection free. Moving them breaks the infection barrier and dooms them as useful for research even if it were physically possible. As for flooding, are you privy to their level of watertight seals etc? Perhaps they were sold a pup and have a claim?

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Re: Tragic waste of research of course

You can't move them, it's not like they're a box of books.

The mice will be severely immuno compromised and as such require specialist care and a extremely well controlled living environment.

They will also be mutated with any combination of human or other conditions, as such they can't be moved anywhere without being sacrificed.

Poor planning is the problem here, generators and spare desks belong in the basement - not millions of dollars worth of sensitive experiments.

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Silver badge

Re: Tragic waste of research of course

Sadly, the most probable reason for them being in the basement is that this is the safest place to put them away from the animal rights nutters. Put them on a floor with windows, the nutters can see in; put them on a floor without windows, and the existence of a floor without windows begins to be a bit suspicious in itself...

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Anonymous Coward

when did they find out about the flooding?

it's not a (...) earthquake, they had AT LEAST a week to prepare. Thanks God they didn't keep any humans in those cages, on this occasion!

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Coat

Don't put all your mice

In the same basement.

<-- lab coat

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Obligatory Hitch-hiker's ref

Those vast hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings are going to be angry.

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Thumb Up

Re: Obligatory Hitch-hiker's ref

Whatever, the answer will still be 42.

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Thumb Down

Re: Obligatory Hitch-hiker's ref

Yawn

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FAIL

embryos

If they didnt freeze a stock of embryos then they are idiots. You dont risk 10 years of mouse work without backing it up with liquid nitrogen stock as mice can keel over for one reason or another without a hurricane... Im pretty sure this number of mice is nothing compared to the billions of wild mice that perished (although of course they had a chance of escape).

If they had a sustained power outage then they have DEFINITELY lost antibodys and very expensive chemical reagents too. If they have lost these too then they are double fools as like the above posters say; they had enough warning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: embryos

They may well have had frozen a stock of embryos. But a power outage that destroyed antibodies and enzymes will have destroyed the embryos too.

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Re: embryos

Not necessarily, embryos in a sealed flask of liquid nitrogen would be ok with or without power. It's anything that needs to be refrigerated that'd be in trouble.

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Re: embryos

The sealed flask would surely have to be refrigerated too, to stop it from popping. It should be well insulated, but that can only do so much.

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Re: embryos

Liquid nitrogen cell banks dont need eleccy. They keep cells at -196 for as long as their liquid nitrogen lasts (which in a modern cell bank is weeks without a top up).

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Re: embryos

Liquid nitrogen storage is generally open at the top, to allow for the contents to be accessed, and for pressure to be equalised with the atmosphere. I would imagine seawater pouring in through the opening would not be helpful.

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Boffin

Re: embryos

If it's like every facility I've ever worked in the freezing program gets taken over by the biggest research beast and nobody else can get a look in. None, absolutely none of the literally dozens of mouse lines I have made, worked with etc has been frozen, despite the theoretical presence of such a facility. The closest I have come was when I got around all the import restrictions (including rabies if you can believe) by getting mice from Paris to Dundee in a courier envelope. As morulae in RT culture media. Another advantage was that they went straight behind the barrier (the facility in Paris was officially dirty). Having them in the dirty facility and the rest of mice behind the barrier simply would not have worked.

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Boffin

Re: embryos

A 'sealed flask' of Liquid Nitrogen has another name: a bomb. As the LN2 warms up it expands and the pressure rises. The Dewars of LN2 that you store tissue culture cells, sperm, embryos etc in have insulating lids with grooves up the sides that allow the egress of gases. You might carry a sealed flask of LN2, but only if it is either temporary or only about 1/3 full to allow room for expansion.

Either you have never been instructed on the safe handling of LN2 or you have forgotten. If you are working with it then you are dangerous.

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Silver badge

Re: will have destroyed the embryos too.

Everybody knows you don't keep your tape backups is the primary work facility. If they lost their frozen embryos that means they're still damnable fools.

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Re: will have destroyed the embryos too.

I'm sure you would be surprised at the amount of places, especially small businesses, who have had to learn this the hard way.

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Boffin

Re: will have destroyed the embryos too.

They are fools only if the backups are taken for the purposes you suppose. They are not. You freeze a line of mice for two not necessarily exclusive reasons.

1. So you can not have the mice living in cages and costing you money. Mouse costs are high and rising all the time so maintaining all your lines as live mice can be prohibitive.

2. In case of disease that requires the killing of all the mice. If you have your lines frozen you can be back up and running faster and cheaper than those who have to move their mice out to a dirty space then rederive them back in.

They are not frozen in case a super storm comes by.

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Anonymous Coward

Further proof that scientists don't care

And that all animal testing should cease immediately.

I hope those responsible are brought to court for animal cruelty.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Further proof that scientists don't care

I, and many people I know and love, would be dead without animal testing.

So no, it very much should not stop, immediately or otherwise, until we have some better alternative. Or are you volunteering to be a guinea pig?

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FAIL

Further proof that idiots don't know what theya re talking about

Animal testing for cosmetic purposes is already banned (in the EU ast least). If you have a viable alternative to in-vitro animal testing for drug safety and efficacy trials, and for models of human diseases vital for creating new treatments for horrible diseasses like cancer and alzheimers, then queue up to receive your Nobel Prize right now.

If, however, you are just spouting some ill-informed knee-jerk reactionary nonsense, then next time you need something from your doctor, be sure to refuse any treatment that has been developed with the use of animal testing, and reduce your life expectancy to 35 accordingly.

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Re: Further proof that idiots don't know what theya re talking about

Just to add :-

I can assure you that minimizing animal use is VERY important in the life sciences - 2 reasons

1) Ethical

2) Money - using animals is VERY expensive.

I could go into the many reasons why it is necessary to use animals for certain purposes but the people who 'believe' that animal use is 'unnecessary' or 'misleading' or just ethically unjustifiable in any circumstance would never be swayed by argument.

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Silver badge

Re: Further proof that scientists don't care

I hope those responsible are brought to court for animal cruelty.

I hope that you contract diabetes and refuse insulin.

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Silver badge

Re: Further proof that scientists don't care

And the subway doesn't care either

There were a lot more rats living in the NY subway and many of those would have drowned - but did the Port Authority and Dept Sanitation do anything to try and rescue all the rats from the sewers and subway before this hit ?

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Bronze badge

Re: Further proof that scientists don't care

Or an infection and refuse meds. Hell he should refuse to take all meds.

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Facepalm

Backups? Aren't they baseball players or something?

What? NO BACKUPS? Of any kind?

No power,

no offsite storage

no second colony of mice (forget bloody flooding, what if they all caught a disease?)

no embryos in storage,

no brain

no clue

no chance.

No wonder these people only get jobs in universities, they wouldn't survive the RealWorld®

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Coat

Re: Backups? Aren't they baseball players or something?

Reminds me of the old adage:

Those who can, do.

Those who can't, teach.

Those who can't teach become politicians.

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Trollface

Re: Backups? Aren't they baseball players or something?

I though it was;

Those who can, do.

Those who can't, become IT recruitment consultants?

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Boffin

Re: Backups? Aren't they baseball players or something?

"forget bloody flooding, what if they all caught a disease?"

Well now that depends. What level of barrier are they housed behind? what strains of mice are housed there and the nature of the work. For eg at one facility we got a virus that caused all the young mice to get the shits. But it was one that after the initial nastiness the mice adapted to. The immunologists however left the facility. They rederived all their lines into another one and left us to it.

Other places I've worked we would have rederived everything and started again. All barriered mouse facilities have sentinel mice and you will occasionally be asked to donate mice to the monitoring program. It's getting very sophisticated as we learn more and more about the viruses they are prone to and the effects of them as well as how to detect them. Strenuous efforts are also made to keep wild mice out. The doorways to all rooms have metal sheets in grooves you have to step over. To keep escaped mouse in AND to keep wild mice out. They may have the run of the corridors, for a short time but not the mouse rooms.

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Alert

Re: Backups? Aren't they baseball players or something?

Annoyingly tall sheets in annoyingly deep grooves, I presume. I've seen a < 3" (wild) house mouse jump a 6" step without poising or even slowing down, it disappeared through the hole in the wall behind the bog. Student houses for you.

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Silver badge

Re: Backups? Aren't they baseball players or something?

Forget the mice. What about the rats?

I still remember us looking after someone's dog, and at the same time a rat found its way in through the back door. The dog had spent its entire life being trained as a rodenticidal maniac. Holy shit, I've never seen something so small jump so high. In human terms, it was like doing a Fosberry Flop over your house and clearing the roof by ten feet.

I don't think six inches would really do much.

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Mushroom

I have no objection to testing \ experimenting on animals. I would go as far to say I am in the minority of vegetarians that understand the usefulness of testing.

But now you have made me so fucking angry because you didn't give a flying fuck about the animals in your care. Jesus fucking wept it's not too difficult to move them to higher ground, or wasn't you aware of the impending storm you cretinous mother fuckers

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Please read the source article before spouting rubbish.

It says "Though most of the animals at the center were unharmed, the center staff could not rescue the animals in one of the facilities, despite hours of work amid the flooding that started at the institute on Monday night"

Its not like they all sat around watching 10 years of work go down the pan. If you want to be furious, be furious at yourself for not reading / thinking before venting a strong opinion.

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Thumb Down

Selective breeding?

Oh I must beg a most gracious apology as when I read:

"New York University's collection of thousands of laboratory mice and rats drowned during Hurricane Sandy's ferocious storms." I thought that they had drowned, when in fact oh hang on retard, drowned? Would that be the watery death thing that happens when you try to breath water, hmm maybe you should try it and let me know the effects!

When I read the NY Times article I read "Dr. Fishell said that his lab alone lost about 2,500 mice. Other programs at the Smilow center, including research into cancer, cardiovascular disease and epigenetics, lost a combined 7,500 more animals" So it looks like 10k of animals destroyed, therefore my previous comment stands!

Please read the fucking article before spouting rubbish

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Have you ever worked in an animal research facility?

I'd bet money the answer is 'no' because if you had you'd know that it IS that difficult to move them to higher ground.

Our animals live in racks that are precisely ventilated to keep them healthy. Moving them would be difficult interms of just finding a place suitable for them, because it isn't like we could just stash them in someone's office for a few days. There are very specific regulations about the housing of research animals, and the mice we work with are some of the cheapest, easiest to care for strains. That's to say nothing of the genetically engineered strains that literally cost thousands of dollars, the severely immunocompromised mice who would become sick and die within a day if taken out of sterile areas, or mice carrying infectious diseases that would present a huge liability if anyone was bitten or infected while they were being moved.

Even if you want to assume scientists are cold hearted and care nothing for the reasearch animals, which I assure you is not true, think rationally...who is going to just sit back and say "oh well, moving the animals would be too much of a hassle" when 10 years worth of work is at stake!

Be an animal lover. Keep even pushing for the ethical treatment of research animals. As a scientist, I believe those issues are important. However, please first get a part-time job as a caretaker at an animal research facility (in the states you don't need a science degree for that) so that you actually know what you're talking about before you tell us how to do our jobs!

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Anonymous Coward

Can they not just dry them off wih a hairdryer and reset the power supply?

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Boffin

"Can they not just dry them off wih a hairdryer and reset the power supply?"

Because of a large surface area to volume ratio wet and cold mice die very quickly from hypothermia, and it doesn't have to be very cold either. Way back during my PhD the water supply was piped to the cages. But the fittings on the end were old and not very good. We gave up and bought water bottles after losing too many to hypthermia in flooded cages, Overnight would be enough in a room kept at 25C. I will never forget the telltale smell, wet dead mouse.

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Unhappy

@Muscleguy: I think that was a very, very, very bad joke.

So bad he couldn't be arsed to put his name on it and use a better icon.

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Black Helicopters

Any risk of contamination?

I wonder; if those rodents carried strains of several diseases, died during the flood, how likely is it that those germs would start to spread through the water; possible even leaving the premises of the university ?

As such; aren't there any risks involved here which the article didn't cover?

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Paris Hilton

Re: Any risk of contamination?

What if...

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Re: Any risk of contamination?

Compared with the countless millions of rats that the flooding will have disturbed - no

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe ,,,,

... at the same time some experimental turtles escaped and took up residence in the sewers!

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Coat

Re: Maybe ,,,,

Yes, but I expect the storms washed the sewers clean of any strange glowing green ooze.

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FAIL

Score is...

Plus five for hindsight. Minus several million for lack of any trace of common sense.

Dem boyz r collage eddecated, Bubba.

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Unhappy

I know where for cheap you can find.....

10 million rats displaced from a flooded subway.....

My condolences to the NYU research staff and our rodent research benefactors.

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