Health News Review

back to “Tips for Understanding Studies”

Stories about research in animals or about research in the laboratory but not yet in humans (sometimes called pre-clinical or in-vitro studies) should include warnings about how this research may not pan out in people. Stories that fail to include such information may paint a brighter picture for possible application in humans than is actually the case.

Nonetheless, preliminary research stories continue to be reported. In the future, we may follow up on some of these stories to see how many panned out in people. Here are some examples:

  • Appetite-suppressing hormone discovered (in rats)
  • Hay fever vaccine in mice
  • Statin curbs smoking lung damage in rats
  • Preventing lung cancer in mice

A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Genomic responses in mouse models poorly mimic human inflammatory diseases,” should serve as a reminder to journalists that mice are not men – if they needed that reminder.

Also see the Life In The Fast Lane blog post, “Animal and laboratory studies,” which gives this overview comment:

  • animal and laboratory studies form the lowest level of evidence for informing clinical decisions
  • they should be viewed as hypothesis generating studies only


Story Review Search


There are multiple ways to search our reviews. You may search by keyword, news source or review rating.

  • Type in the keyword or news source the search by those criteria.
  • Type 0 - 5 star to search by review rating. ie. 3 star or 1 star

Blog Search


News Organizations’ Overall Grades