Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rat Wrangling

For my required research project I am going to be working with rats to see if we can find another indication for an already existing antidote. The positive aspect is that this research may help a lot of people. The negative aspect is the working with rats part.

Today I had a meeting at the animal lab with the other co-investigators in the project to learn how to handle the rats. No one told me that we would be using the ugly white rats with the creepy red eyes. There's just something sort of evil-looking about them.

The instructions were simple: Grab the rat by the tail with one hand and with the other hand, grab it just behind its front feet, high enough to cause the front paws to cross over each other. This helps to minimize struggling and at the same time, makes it relatively difficult for the little varmint to bite you.

You would think that for women with PhDs and medical degrees this would be a simple task. Well, you thought wrong.

The first of our group did well enough. She was hesitant at first, and with good reason as the rat sliced through her rubber gloves with one swift swoop of a paw. But she held on to him tightly, so tightly that when we were learning to place a tiny needle down the rat's throat to administer medication that his little tongue was purple and he looked kind of short of breath. A fine job overall, though.

The next woman was less hesitant, and reached with one hand to encircle the rat, but forgot to first grab on to its tail for stabilization. The animal deftly spun in her hand, and somehow she ended up with rat urine on her face! She was a good sport about it though, especially considering that the rest of us were giggling like schoolgirls.

Finally, it was my turn. I think my rat was just more docile, and other than flinching a bit, there were no problems. I have to admit that I have a slight advantage in the rodent-handling department because as a child, my brothers and I helped to raise mice for a bird rescue project of my father's. Of course a few select mice were kept as pets, but it's been almost 20 years since I've handled a mouse.

Next week we go back to the lab to learn how to test for normal reflex and behavioral reactions. I knew that this study was going to require a lot of commitment, but I didn't know that golden showers were going to be one of the exposure risks!


~~Silk said...

There's a place just up the road from my house that breeds almost all the white lab rats used in the US. I hear the place is fascinating - the beasties are genetically pure and raised in a sterile environment.

Your rats are probably my ex-neighbors!

Chris said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

I needed this post today! Damn evil eyed rats....they look like they've already got some side-effects working with those red eyes. Tell 'em to mix in a bottle of Clear Eyes after they smoke their little rat bongs:)

ru said...

Red eyes are evil.