September’s Editorial praises the new research that more genetic rodent models will enable. However, manipulating important genes in a mouse is not enough. Experimental techniques are also needed. Perhaps nowhere is this more important—and more difficult—than using animals to assess neuropsychiatric diseases. While much can be learned on the level of brain and cell physiology, behavioral tests are important to assess which aspects of physiology are most likely to matter. It’s the behavioral symptoms, not the cell-based ones, that directly affect people’s lives. How useful would a drug be if it cleared away the telltale plaques of Alzheimer’s patients but did nothing to preserve their memories?
To make the most of the ever increasing numbers of rodent genetic models, researchers will need better assays and better ways of assessing their validity for human disease.
Please share your thoughts on how best to assess whether an animal model is relevant for studying neuropsychiatric disease.