Fabricating mice and dementia: opening up relations in multi-species research

Gail Davies, Richard Gorman, and Richard Milne
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Chapter Abstract: Alzheimer's disease is the most commonly identified form of dementia in people, but it is also a multiple condition, encompassing both sporadic and familial forms, opening up various potential pathways for treatment. Constructing, or fabricating, multi-species biomedical research on Alzheimer's disease adds further complexities through the process of manipulating the biological capacities of animals, co-ordinating action across different communities of research, and translating insights generated in one animal (mice) to another (humans) for new clinical treatments. In this chapter we use recent stories of scientific breakthrough around the ‘amyloid cascade hypothesis’ (ACH) to frame our exploration of the organisation of translational research on dementia using mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. Telling a story of success about the ACH today has involved narrowing down the ways that people, animals, and drug pathways are brought together by focusing on the specific biological processes that can be modelled, evidenced, and altered in multi-species experimental systems. We then explore how people affected by dementia, acting as patient representatives in reviewing applications for new biomedical research, locate themselves and their families within these stories of recurrent hope and delayed promise. We conclude by reflecting on the different dimensions of accountability in dementia research and the challenge of working across multispecies relations and the multiple versions of dementia. We suggest the processes of fabrication described here may be usefully applied to understand the complex histories of animal models of dementia and open up opportunities for multidisciplinary research able to articulate the multiplicity of dementia with multi species dementia.

You can click on the image for more information. This mouse was fabricated by the artist Helen Scalway to indicate how animal models are sites for the exchange of information as well as studying interactive processes. You can see more of her work at Micespace.org.

For more on the idea of multi-species dementia, you can explore the Multi-Species Dementia International Research Network webpages.