Save the Rats, Stave Off Dementia

Save the Rats, Stave Off Dementia

Rats carry disease. They also ravage crops, mess up attics and basements, and pose a danger to children and pets. It’s no wonder an industry exists to exterminate them.

Yet the Bible offers a reason to justify their existence. Rodents (short-legged mammals) are listed in Genesis 1:24–25 (“creatures that move along the ground”) as one of three sets of land mammals God created to serve humanity’s needs. At civilization’s start rodents (think of muskrat and beaver pelts) provided humans with effective, economically produced clothing. No other creatures produce such luxuriant, warm fur at such low cost.

Today, rats are helping us gain medical advances. Their diet, DNA, and health issues remarkably mimic ours. Hence, they make excellent laboratory proxies for humans. Also, their small size, short generation times, fast adaption to crowded conditions, broad diet spectrum, and tolerance of human researchers means scientists can perform medical experiments in short time periods for little cost.

Evolutionists claim humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor by natural descent. And since chimpanzees most closely resemble humans in bodily appearance, the presumption is that they must also most closely resemble human DNA and metabolic pathways. Rats prove this presumption is not universally correct. Now that humans are living well past eighty years old, the search for cures or treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia has become crucial. Medical researchers note—with much astonishment—that the molecular pathways human brains use to form long-term memories are virtually identical to those in rats and mice. This similarity allows researchers to perform chemical experiments on demented rats in the hope that such pursuits will benefit humans by leading to improved therapies and possibly finding cures for various ailments.

In 2009, I reported how different research teams had developed drugs that transform ordinary mice into “super-smart” mice that remember everything. However, the research teams observed serious side effects for the mice with super memory. This discovery led to an understanding of how intellectual performance for both rodents and humans is enhanced by the ability to forget nonessential information.

Now, three other research teams have published reports on their successes in developing dementia treatments for both middleaged and elderly rats. In one study,1 twelve pre-dementia male rats all six months old (middle-aged) were divided into two groups of six. One group was treated with Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) for six months. The other was not. After the trial period, the ALCARtreated rats ran maze-water task tests much faster than the control group. The researchers also noted degenerative morphological (structural) changes in the brain cells of the control rats but not in the treated rats. They concluded that for rats, “Treatment with ALCAR…significantly attenuated [reduced] spatial learning/memory impairment.”2

In a separate study, aged rats (22–24 months old) with established memory loss were evaluated for their maze-test performance before and after a 5–10 day treatment with catapol, a Chinese medicinal herb.3 The results showed that “catapol could significantly improve not only spatial learning and memory but also locomotor activity and exploratory behavior.”4

In a third study,5 female rats were each subjected to one mild mechanical impact to their dorsal skulls (akin to a human heading a soccer ball). In tests performed one day to two months after the impacts, the rats showed less proficiency in spatial learning and memory.

The researchers also observed damaged neurons below the impact sites that correlated with poor maze learning two months after the impact. These results already are guiding researchers in setting safe limits for head trauma in such sports as boxing, hockey, football, and soccer.

Humans are similar to rats in the way our memory works, but dissimilar in our longevity and in the diversity and level of our intellectual capacities. It remains to be determined how well therapies for rats translate into effective treatments for humans. Nevertheless, we can thank our Creator for the manner in which he designed rats and mice in advance of our creation. The potential for rapid development of treatments for various mental ailments plaguing our aging population is encouraging.

  1. Roberta Freddi et al., “Behaviour and Degenerative Changes in the Basal Forebrain Systems of Aged Rats (12 Months Old) after Levo-Acetyl-Carnitine Treatments,” Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science 2 (February 2012): 18–25.
  2. Ibid., 18.
  3. Jing Liu et al., “Catapol Upregulates Hippocampal GAP-43 Level of Aged Rats with Enhanced Spatial Memory and Behavior Response,” Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science 2 (November 2012): 495–504.
  4. Ibid., 495.
  5. Wudu E. Lado and Michael A. Persinger, “Spatial Memory Deficits and Their Correlations with Clusters of Shrunken Neuronal Soma in the Cortices and Limbic System Following a ‘Mild’ Mechanical Impact to the Dorsal Skull in Female Rats,” Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science 2 (August 2012): 333–42.