Bring Back the Rat!

Christy S. Carter, Arlan Richardson, Derek M. Huffman, Steven Austad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


As 2020 is "The Year of the Rat" in the Chinese astrological calendar, it seems an appropriate time to consider whether we should bring back the laboratory rat to front-and-center in research on the basic biology of mammalian aging. Beginning in the 1970s, aging research with rats became common, peaking in 1992 but then declined dramatically by 2018 as the mouse became preeminent. The purpose of this review is to highlight some of the historical contributions as well as current advantages of the rat as a mammalian model of human aging, because we suspect at least a generation of researchers is no longer aware of this history or these advantages. Herein, we compare and contrast the mouse and rat in the context of several biological domains relevant to their use as appropriate models of aging: phylogeny/domestication, longevity interventions, pathology/physiology, and behavior/cognition. It is not the goal of this review to give a complete characterization of the differences between mice and rats, but to provide important examples of why using rats as well as mice is important to advance our understanding of the biology of aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-415
Number of pages11
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 14 2020


  • Animal model
  • Biology of aging
  • Dietary restriction
  • Hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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