Meet the humanized mouse. It’s not the talking mouse of movies but an extension of using mice as a model system to study human disease and function. In these mice strains whole swaths of the mouse genome have been replaced with the corresponding sections of the human genome. In these animals where the swap has been made the human genes effectively replace their mouse counterparts, resulting in a human molecular system that operates within the mouse.
Genes however are not enough. For immune system replacements, genetic changes are augmented with organ grafts. Mice strains exist that essentially have a human immune system operating within them. Such strains open an experimental opportunity that would simple not be available otherwise. With such a strain a researcher can gain insights into how a human system would respond because though they are working with mice, those mice contain a reconstituted human system within. Model organisms standing in as a proxy for human subjects must always be evaluated with the knowledge that human responses may differ. That is till true even with these humanized systems, but we are far closer to a human response than before.
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- Nat Rev Immunol. 2007 Feb;7(2):118-30. Humanized mice in translational biomedical research. Shultz LD, Ishikawa F, Greiner DL. Go To PubMed