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January 8, 1982

A Guinea Pig's View of Research

JAMA. 1982;247(2):213. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320270049026

The scientific method has created for biologists the need for organisms that possess specific characteristics, that facilitate experimental studies. Discovery of such creatures relies heavily on serendipity, and this may explain the peculiar array of living things now found in the laboratory. For example, a relatively insignificant insect like the fruit fly has been elevated to celebrity status by geneticists who exploit the short life-cycle and easily discernible phenotypes of Drosophila melanogaster. Mammalian experiments have always favored the use of rodents, which provide an easily manipulated biologic system remarkably similar to our own. Perhaps in this capacity they have repaid their debt to human society incurred as vectors in the spread of disease. One rodent worthy of mention is Cavia porcellus, the guinea pig. The popularity of this denizen of the laboratory has fostered the use of its name as a metaphor for virtually any experimental animal.

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