‘Dirty’ mice better than lab-raised mice for studying human disease | Science News

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‘Dirty’ mice better than lab-raised mice for studying human disease

Immune system behaves differently for rodents kept in sterile environments

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1:00pm, April 20, 2016
Wild mice and pet-store mice

EXPERIENCE MATTERS  Wild mice (one shown left) and pet-store mice have dealt with infections, which trained their immune systems to react similarly to an adult human’s. Lab mice (one shown right) are kept in sterile environments. Their immune systems react more like a newborn baby’s or a person in a hermetically sealed room.

Don’t blame lab mice for shortfalls in their ability to mimic human immune systems — blame their upbringing.

Mice with more experience fighting pathogens have immune system reactions more like humans’, conclude two studies published online April 20. “Dirty” mice bought from pet stores or caught in the wild have more humanlike immune systems than clean lab mice do, researchers report in Nature. And in Cell Host & Microbe, scientists find that infecting lab mice with a series of viruses and parasites alters their immune responses to be similar to those of dirty mice and humans.

In recent years, scientists have debated whether mice are adequate stand-ins for humans. Some say mice are poor substitutes, and that money should instead be spent on bolstering human studies

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