Humane bloodletting

Because mice are so small, sampling their blood in a laboratory isn’t easy. Typically, researchers plunge a needle or pipette into the corner of a mouse’s eye socket to reach a large vessel behind it. The technique can blind the animal “and is really horrible,” says William Golde of the Agriculture Department’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Orient Point, N.Y. Something better was needed, the immunologist decided.

CHEEK SCIENCE. The tip of the new lancet (inset) comes in different lengths that are tailored to mice of various sizes. USDA, MEDIpoint

In the October Lab Animal, his team reports its invention of a new lancet shaped so that it just nips into a cheek vein. The tool resembles a finger-stick lancet that used to be marketed to people with diabetes, notes Peter Gollobin, president of Medipoint International of Mineola, N.Y., which is already manufacturing and selling the cheek-stick device. The small jab causes little pain and heals quickly, he says.

Since the new lancet’s appearance a few months ago, Joe Gile of the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, a major lab-rodent center, has been teaching other scientists to use the device. Almost all of them prefer Golde’s lancet to the old bloodletting technique, he says.

Last month, the invention garnered Golde’s team a federal technology-transfer award.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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