A different way rats are being used to assist the food industry.

A cornucopia of artificial sweeteners is available in the grocery store: Equal, Nutrasweet, Sweet'N Low, Splenda and several others. To make it to the shelf, each had to go through a thorough research and development phase. Somewhere along the line, those companies enlisted people to taste each sweetener and see how it stacked up to regular sugar.

Opertech Bio, a startup in Philadelphia, says it can take humans out of the testing process and replace them with rats and machines. Kyle Palmer, the chief science officer of the company, says that the Microtiter Operant Gustometer, or MOG, could test hundreds to thousands of different flavor compounds quickly and easily. The design and results of the company's initial test runs are published in the journal PLoS One.