SONOMA, CA—Scientists at the severely underfunded HLM Research Laboratories announced plans Monday to have the facility's one remaining rat, Mendel, now cancer-ridden and covered in lipstick, run through a maze several hundred times.

Head researcher Dr. Linda Cho said that since the lab's $5.6 million budget was slashed by 90 percent last winter, Mendel, a blind 1-year-old albino Norwegian rat with advanced non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, has served as the subject for every experiment the lab has performed.

"The first few data sets were rendered null by Mendel's widely varying maze-completion times, which ranged from three seconds to two hours and 45 minutes," Cho said. "We think the confounding variable may have been the 5 cc injection of oven cleaner, a substance with the potential to interact with the residual methamphetamine-cocaine concoction still in his system."

"Although he seems to have reached equilibrium, in a manner of speaking," Cho continued. "We're confident that we'll be able to gather some useable data once we take the electrode out of his dopamine pathway and reattach the top of his skull."

Cho said that subsequent trials will have to be statistically corrected because of a malfunction with the maze, which now shocks the rat with 6,000 volts of electricity the entire time it is in contact with the apparatus. And, after a maze collapse last week, Mendel will also serve as the default subject of a paraplegia study.

Fortunately, following the insertion of an experimental norepinephrine implant in May, the rat no longer requires sleep, making it "ideal" for around-the-clock testing.

"We'd prefer to take six weeks to run the trials, but our current fiscal situation demands that Mendel run the maze 9,000 times in 72 hours," Cho said. "We will have more time to run experiments on him—her? I'm sorry, Mendel's gender has been manipulated so many times. In any event, we will have some more funding coming in from the Johnson & Johnson company since we agreed to study the mammalian limits of organic hand-soap consumption."

The lab's shoestring budget, which forces the scientists to conduct their research in the facility's kitchenette, has reportedly inspired several serendipitous discoveries. Cho said the most notable of these is documented in a study entitled "The Effects Of Acute Toothpaste-Induced Fluoride Toxicity Coupled With Extreme Steroid Abuse After Hot Coffee Has Been Spilled Into A Surgical Incision Resulting From The Removal Of A Genetically Grown Ear."

"Obviously, there are a great many things to sort out," Cho said. "But once we determine whether it's the loud, sudden noises or the seizure-inducing strobe lights causing Mendel's massive stress-related weight gain, then we'll really be able to start making strides forward in the field of oncological-cosmetic-stem-cell-drug-rehabilitation-acute-hallucinatory-psychoses research."

"Of course, we'll have to get him out of the hyperbaric chamber first," Cho added.

When pressed about cruelty accusations from animal rights groups over the near-constant battery of tests the rat has been subjected to, Cho dismissed such claims, saying that Mendel is being treated "in a perfectly humane manner."

"She has been kept as comfortable as possible, given the nature of animal-based lab research," Cho said. "Not that any living organism pumped full of that much serotonin could possibly be having a bad time."

While many have said that the testing at HLM Laboratories is a torturous exercise with no conceivable real-world applications, others feel that the experiments could open up new treatment options for humans.

"This gives cancer patients like myself so much hope," said a lipstick-smeared Julia (née James) Yewell of Lockhart, TX after consuming a large amount of cocaine. "I think that everything—oops, blacked out there for a minute—I think that everything is going to be all right."