All mice might look pretty much alike to the layperson. But, as a group of neuroscientists at the University of Florida can attest, the similarities are only fur deep. Earlier this month, the researchers retracted their paper on a rare form of movement disorder after discovering that they’d inadvertently swapped one strain of mouse for another. The article, which appeared in Acta Neuropathologica Communications, purported to show how rodents with a defective gene developed an animal version of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
But after publication of the paper, a student doing follow-up work found that the mice which were supposed to be carrying the mutant gene didn’t seem to be getting sick, while other mice were showing signs of ALS. Jada Lewis, who worked on the study, blamed the mix-up on a technician. Ironically, Lewis said she and her colleagues had rushed the study in the hope of getting grant funding to further characterize the mouse strain.