Work with human specific viruses will greatly benefit from the use of an in vivo system that provides human target cells and tissues in a physiological setting. In this regard humanized mice (hu-Mice) have played an important role in our understanding of viral pathogenesis and testing of therapeutic strategies. Limitations with earlier versions of hu-Mice that lacked a functioning human immune system are currently being overcome. The new generation hu-Mouse models are capable of multilineage human hematopoiesis and generate T cells, B cells, macrophages and dendritic cells required for an adaptive human immune response. Now any human specific pathogen that can infect humanized mice can be studied in the context of ongoing infection and immune responses. Two leading humanized mouse models are currently employed: the hu-HSC model is created by transplantation of human hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), whereas the BLT mouse model is prepared by transplantation of human fetal liver, thymus and HSC. A number of human specific viruses such as HIV-1, dengue, EBV and HCV are being studied intensively in these systems. Both models permit infection by mucosal routes with viruses such as HIV-1 thus allowing transmission prevention studies. Cellular and humoral immune responses are seen in both the models. While there is efficient antigen specific IgM production, IgG responses are suboptimal due to inefficient immunoglobulin class switching. With the maturation of T cells occurring in the autologous human thymus, BLT mice permit human HLA restricted T cell responses in contrast to hu-HSC mice. However, the strength of the immune responses needs further improvement in both models to reach the levels seen in humans. The scope of hu-Mice use is further broadened by transplantation of additional tissues like human liver thus permitting immunopathogenesis studies on hepatotropic viruses such as HCV. Numerous studies that encompass antivirals, gene therapy, viral evolution, and the generation of human monoclonal antibodies have been conducted with promising results in these mice. For further improvement of the new hu-Mouse models, ongoing work is focused on generating new strains of immunodeficient mice transgenic for human HLA molecules to strengthen immune responses and human cytokines and growth factors to improve human cell reconstitution and their homeostatic maintenance.
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