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Immunology escapes from the mouse trap

What? Retire Mighty Mouse?

Mark Davis, PhD, director of Stanford's Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infectious Disease, has used mice to brilliant effect. They have helped him 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 an exotic destination called "humans."

In a commentary just published online in Science Translational Medicine, Davis beseeches the field to start thinking out of the mouse 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 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. And heck, they've got four legs. Duh.

Fortunately, today's new high-throughput technologies are making it possible to research the human condition, immunology speaking, in a relatively noninvasive way. Davis and his colleagues have been showing how to go about this, by creating a thriving operation at Stanford called the Human Immune Monitoring Center (which I wrote about in detail in this magazine article last year).

Previously: Mice to Men: Immunological research vaults into the 21st century
Photo by xhouxuan12345678  

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