Escape from the mouse trap? New experimental models developing

By Bruce Goldman
Credit: xhouxuan12345678/flickr

(Medical Xpress) -- Mark Davis, PhD, director of Stanford’s Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, has used mice to brilliant effect. They have helped him and a legion of fellow immunologists unravel many a mystery of how our immune systems manage to mount a response to the overwhelming diversity of foreign antigens that assault us throughout our lives.

But Davis has been pushing for at least a few years now to move immunology onward and upward to an exotic destination called “humans.”

In a commentary published online Jan. 18 in Science Translational Medicine, Davis beseeched the field to start thinking out of the trap, as it were, writing: “In the last half century or so, much of the heavy lifting in immunology research has been done by laboratory animals, especially inbred mice.”

One indicator of the importance of this work, writes Davis, has been that most of the Nobel prizes in immunology for the last 30 years have been for research performed with mouse models. This dominance has led many to conclude that mice possess the only immune system worth studying.

But laboratory “mice, for all their charm and ease of use, have a number of serious flaws as a model system,” Davis writes. They’re inbred. They’re kept in germ-proofed shelters, much unlike life in the wild. The diseases they’re presumed to be modeling typically don’t precisely mirror the human version we care about. They’ve also got four legs.

Fortunately, today’s high-throughput technologies are making it possible to research the human condition, immunologically speaking, in a relatively noninvasive way. Davis and his colleagues have created a thriving operation at Stanford, the Human Immune Monitoring Center, whose genesis, rationale and scope were described in a Stanford Medicine article, “The bodyguard."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Immune function boosted by life in the wild

Dec 06, 2010

Life in a demanding environment with limited resources might be better for the immune system than living in comfort, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

China to launch space station module prototype

Aug 17, 2011

China’s space program is in the news again, this time with unconfirmed reports that the Tiangong 1 space lab may be launching into orbit sometime this year – possibly later this month.  Previous ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

Oct 24, 2014

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments