To be a rat in a scientific laboratory is to live a difficult and often abbreviated life. Rats and people have similar DNA, so researchers poke, prod and inject the furry creatures to test treatments that could unlock the secrets of human biology, physiology, and sometimes psychology. In the past few decades, researchers have forced rats to become drug fiends in order to study addiction, infected rats with cancer to test new treatments, and even used the rodents to grow human body parts.
Given the lowly rat’s many sacrifices, a recent study from Georgetown University has an air of poetic justice: Physiologist Ladan Eshkevari trained lab rats to nestle comfortably in a sock while she tested the stress-reducing affects of acupuncture. The results were groundbreaking: “The rodents receiving the needles produced lower levels of neuropeptide Y, a molecule that’s elevated in stressed-out rats,” reported National Geographic writer, Juli Berwald. “It’s among the first molecular proofs that acupuncture reduces stress.”
If you want to try the ancient treatment for yourself, first check out this introduction to acupuncture, including rules for finding a qualified acupuncturist. Or, if you’re not quite ready to go under the needles yourself, another furry creature, your dog, might be ready to lead the way.