And, in the mice are not people department of……….

On today, “New Hormone Discovered That Curbs Weight Gain, Diabetes Just Like Exercise.”

Here’s a fun little reader survey:

Should the fact that this research was only done in mice be:

  • in the first sentence?
  • or only in the last sentence (which is where it appeared) ?

Ideally should the story link to:

Do you think anyone at

  • read the actual research paper?
  • or did they simply read and rewrite the news release?

The story uses this quote: “This represents a major advance in the identification of new treatments for age-related diseases such as diabetes,” said Dr. Pinchas Cohen, senior author of the study.  Do you think that quote:

  • came from an in-person, email, or phone interview with the researcher?
  • was lifted directly from the university news release? (Because, you’ll note that exact same quote appears in the news release.)

When the story finally explains in the final sentence that this was in mice, it states: “While tests were only administered on mice, the necessary mechanisms are present in all mammals, humans included.”  Do you think that:

  • that observation came from the journalist’s own independent evaluation of the evidence?
  • it was simply a minor rewrite of what was in the news release, which was: “While all of the experiments on MOTS-c to date have been performed on lab mice, the molecular mechanisms that make it function in mice exist in all mammals, including humans.” ?

Do you think that this is the way that news about weight gain, diabetes and exercise should be delivered to the public, meaning people, not mice?


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Comments (4)

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Pat Bowne

March 4, 2015 at 6:41 pm

I’ve about decided to have ‘we can cure this in mice’ carved on my tombstone.

Greg P

March 4, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Ideally the story would prominently disclose the financial conflicts of interest of the study’s authors. This was mentioned obliquely in the press release (“the MOTS-c intellectual property has been licensed to a biotechnology company”). But somehow this did not make it into the Time article despite extensive copying of the rest of the press release.

Louisa Dell'Amico

March 9, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I think all research studies should reveal the species of its subjects in the first paragraph.

Daniel Pendick

March 9, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Yes, this is a curious case. It’s hard to understand why it could not be mentioned in passing high in the story that this is a mouse study, then follow up later with more explanation (a single sentence) saying that although many important new drug targets are discovered in mice, they often–usually!–don’t pan out in research with people. That doesn’t take a lot of space, and it puts the finding in the proper perspective for the reader, e.g., “This is interesting and potentially important, but it’s experimental and preliminary so don’t get too worked up just yet.”

Maybe HNR should start a new “…In Mice” award category.