Humanized Mice

by The Cosmetic Chemist Staff


Genetically modified and/or immunodeficient mice are increasingly being used for dermatological research. These mice have human cells or tissues and may even express human genes. A number of groundbreaking studies of various skin ailments and carcinomas have been carried out using these mouse models.

Traditionally, mouse models served as hosts for human tissues allowing researchers to carry out crucial investigations in which human tissues or cells were grafted/grown in the mice. These mice are immunodeficient since a wild-type mouse would reject the graft or transplant. While these mice serve as good models to study skin diseases and other ailments, advances in genetic engineering have taken the technology a step further allowing the mice to express human genes.

A recent article, published by Sherrie Divito and coworkers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, provides an informative overview of humanized mice.1 As the authors point out, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to using these mouse models. The most obvious advantage is the ability to better emulate disease states in humans. Adding genetic modification only improves this competency. However, one should be aware of some of the caveats associated with such procedures. For example, the tissue’s connection/memory with the host immune system will not be the same as it is in humans; this is especially true with lymphocytes (T cells and B cells). Furthermore, mouse models will not have the same signaling capabilities (cytokines, growth factors, etc.) or receptors that humans possess.

For further reading, please consult the original article published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

1. R.L. Griffin, T.S. Kupper, S.J. Divito, Humanized mice in dermatology research, J. Invest. Dermatol., 135, e39. doi:10.1038/jid.2015.393 (2015).