'Dirty' Mice Better Than
Lab Mice for Research,
Is a laboratory mouse bred to be specified pathogen free (SPF) real- ly the best model for developing
treatments and therapies for human
Not necessarily, says a new study
published in Nature. It found that mice
bought from pet stores more accurately
mimicked a human health response,
There is growing concern that mice bred for use in the
laboratory are not the best models for human disease.
However, for now, animals are currently the most effective
research model and have led to advancements in treat-
ments for cancer, immunology, diabetes, polio, and count-
less other diseases.
Laboratory mice are currently raised in abnormally
hygienic specified pathogen free barrier facilities. This
ensures that unknown diseases cannot interfere with the
results of an experiment. “Current immunology research
stresses the importance of using lab mice that are maintained
in ‘clean’ barrier facilities, where the animals are carefully
kept away from most of the microbes that would be carried in normal mice. This has been tremendously useful
for understanding the development of the immune system,
but is in sharp contrast with humans, since we are exposed
to many types of microbes (some of which are infectious,
some of which simply live on or in our bodies),” study
author Stephen C. Jameson, in the Center for Immunology,
Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the
University of Minnesota, told ALN exclusively.
Jameson and the rest of the team of researchers from the
University of Minnesota, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and
Case Western Reserve University wondered what would
happen if they co-housed laboratory mice and mice purchased from pet stores. Would either of these groups of
mice accurately represent the human immune system?
The results were striking. Not only did the pet store
mice better mimic the immune systems of adult humans,
the researchers found that the laboratory mice who were
co-housed with these ‘dirty’ mice were able to more quickly respond to infection or illness than mice who continued
to be housed in a clean environment.