Cause-of-Death Analysis in Rodent Aging Studies

Vet Pathol. 2016 Mar;53(2):233-43. doi: 10.1177/0300985815610391. Epub 2015 Oct 27.


In research studies using rats or mice, the cause of death is often not evaluated or reported. An analysis of the causes of death is particularly valuable for aging and carcinogenesis studies. Comparing causes of death among the study groups is often an important adjunct to the biochemical, molecular, clinical, and histopathologic findings. The methods for evaluating causes of death, contributing causes of death, and comorbidities have been suggested in several publications. Surprisingly, in important mouse aging studies, causes of death are often not reported. Cause-of-death assignment in preclinical rodent model aging research suffers from a lack of a standardized approach and an understanding of the value that it can add to longevity and interventional studies. While assigning single cause of death may facilitate data analysis, defining and publishing data on contributing causes (comorbidities) provides more information on associated underlying chronic conditions and health span in mouse models. This article reviews factors that affect determination of cause of death and the methods for evaluating causes of death and comorbidities. The proposed systematic pathology analysis includes assigning cause of death and comorbidities to define total disease burden. The combination of pathology with in vivo data will fully characterize the effect of tested interventions on multiple chronic diseases and health span of aging mice with improved translation to human aging and age-associated lesions.

Keywords: aging; animal model; cause of death; health span; histopathology; mouse model; pathology; rodent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Cause of Death
  • Humans
  • Longevity
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Rats
  • Rodent Diseases / mortality*