A study of media coverage of 623 scientific papers on Alzheimer’s disease research conducted in mice reveals that the digital news media are more likely to write a story about alleged breakthroughs or medical research findings if research authors omit mice from their studies’ titles. On the other hand, papers that acknowledge mice in their titles result in limited media coverage.
In addition, the study titled “What’s not in the news headlines or titles of Alzheimer disease articles? #Inmice” conducted by Dr Marcia Triunfol of Humane Society International and Dr Fabio Gouveia of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil, and published in PLoS Biology, found that the resulting media coverage generated by papers with “missing mice” titles is also more likely to omit mice from their headlines.
This is of concern because scientific findings obtained from animal experiments should be reported with caution due to their limited relevance to human health. The biology and physiology of mice and other animals differ significantly to that of humans, such that research results obtained in animals often fail to be replicated in people. Despite that, the scientific value of articles downplaying that they relied on animal models is actually inflated by their disproportionate media exposure, raising concerns that the public and patients are being misled.
Dr Triunfol, one of the study’s authors and Humane Society International’s scientific advisor, says: “There are around 200 animal models to study Alzheimer’s disease, and yet the vast majority of potential treatments discovered through experiments on mice are ineffective when tested in humans. Despite this significant flaw in the animal models, we show that articles glossing over the fact that the results were obtained using animals are given increased visibility and therefore implied credibility by the media. The reporting of animal research needs to be addressed with far greater caution and more prominent disclaimers in mainstream media to ensure the public understands that the results of animal experiments may have little to no relevance to human patients.” [Read more…]