Neurodegenerative diseases are generally characterized by the selective degeneration of particular neuronal populations and the accumulation of abnormal or aggregated proteins within, but occasionally external to, neurons in affected brain regions. These diseases can be broadly classified as disorders of cognition and memory or movement, and both features can often coexist in a single disease. In recent years, the identification of genetic mutations that cause rare monogenic familial disease has revolutionized our understanding of the molecular basis of neurodegenerative disease and has provided new targets for the development of disease-modifying therapies. An essential part of this process has been the development of genetic animal models that accurately recapitulate the essential features of each disease, with particular emphasis on the use of mouse models. Such mouse models have provided unique insight into the molecular mechanism(s) through which genetic mutations precipitate neurodegeneration and produce associated clinical and pathological phenotypes. In this review, we provide an overview of the current status, uses and limitations of genetic mouse models for understanding major neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.