Humanized Mouse Models
The mouse has been used for over 30 years as a model system for studying human disease. Recently, “humanized” mice have grown in popularity because they are formidable models of the human being and therefore extremely useful for understanding the human condition. What exactly is a humanized mouse? A humanized mouse is a mouse that carries functional human genes, cells, tissues, and/or organs. There are many ways to study human disease. So why do researchers make humanized mouse models in particular?
The mouse as a model system in human disease research
It has been shown through decades of research that humans and mice share many common similarities in terms of anatomy, physiology and genetics. Although we do not look alike, on a genetic level mouse genes are very similar to our own, making mouse genetic research useful for studying human disease. By making humanized mouse models, we have gained valuable insight into how human systems work which has allowed us to develop new and important therapies.
Some facts about mice that you may not know:
- Adult mice multiply quickly. They can reproduce as often as every three weeks, and they can mate on the day they give birth – very different than humans but extremely beneficial to our understanding of human disease. Scientists are easily able to generate a lot of mice to work with.
- The mouse is small compared to other potential animals models, which makes them more convenient to take care of for research purposes.
- The time between a mouse being born and giving birth is short, usually about 10 weeks (compared to humans where it takes us about 10 months to deliver a baby). This means several mouse generations can be observed at once.
- The mouse has a short lifespan of one year, which in terms of aging equals about 30 human years. This gives scientists the ability to measure the effects of human ageing more easily by using mice.
- Humanized mouse models are extremely useful for studying complex diseases, such as atherosclerosis and hypertension, as many of the genes responsible for these diseases are shared between mice and humans. Research in mice provides insights into the genetic risk factors for these diseases in humans.
- Compared to other potential animal model systems, it is relatively easy to manipulate the mouse genome, for example, adding or removing a gene to better understand its role in the body. This ability has provided an enormously powerful tool for modelling specific diseases when a mutated human gene can be observed in the mouse.
- Immunodeficient mice (mice without a fully functioning immune system) can also be used as hosts to grow both normal and diseased human tissue. This has been a useful tool in cancer and AIDS research.
- Mice are used to study complex biological systems found in humans, such as the immune, hormonal, nervous, cardiovascular and skeletal systems because like humans, mice naturally develop diseases that affect these systems too – including cancer and diabetes.
These reasons, and more, put humanized mouse models at the top of the list as the animal model of choice for studying human disease. Interested in using a custom mouse model in your next project? Get a quote from ingenious today.
- Devoy A, Bunton-Stasyshyn RK, Tybulewicz VL, Smith AJ, Fisher EM. 2011. Genomically humanised mice: technologies and promise. Nat Rev Genet 13(1):14-20.
- Why use the mouse in research?