Study Using Mice To Make Fecal Transplants Gets Backlash From Science Community

A few weeks ago, we covered a study that came out about how fecal transplants in mice from a group of boys with autism resulted in the mice adopting the same autism behaviors as the boys. Many were amazed about how much interesting information the study was able to find but naturally, you can’t have the good without the bad and there are people criticizing some of the graphs and highlights featured in the initial study. 

According to the Spectrum News, many scientists in the field are critical of how the analysis was portrayed in the study because certain portions were a little unclear. For starters, a scientist named Kevin Mitchell took to Twitter to express why he thought the original study needed a little more investigation behind it. In his Tweet, Mitchell said 

“Given the very high number of variables being probed, it's not surprising some differences are found. No replication samples are tested, so my prior expectation would be that these are spurious, until proven otherwise.”

Mitchell is basically saying that the study is pretty much based on lies due to the fact that they didn’t test a wider range of mice and children with autism. Another point brought upon by Mitchell on Twitter is that the 16 kids whose samples were used in the study should have been labeled if they had a milder or more severe form of autism because this would ultimately affect the outcome of the study. 


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There is another fact about the study that was brought about by a blog written to criticize the original study which was that at the end of the day, mice aren’t exactly human. We may have similar organs as mice but when it comes to social behavior, we can’t expect mice to behave the same way people do — in nature or in this controlled study. 

At the end of the day, autism spectrum disorder is not only an environmental condition but it’s also a social condition, and though mice may have their own form of socialization, they do not socialize in the same way humans do. That being said, it would be difficult to truly gauge if the fecal transplant from boys with autism to mice who’ve never been exposed to any kind of bacteria, good or bad, were actually affecting the mice socially. 

This would imply that mice behave like we do and that isn’t really true. Another behavior that researchers considered an autism behavior is repetitive behaviors that they observed mice doing during the study was burying marbles. Yes, for humans this may be considered a repetitive behavior but for mice, that might just be a regular behavior they do on a daily basis.

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