Overcoming current limitations in humanized mouse research

J Infect Dis. 2013 Nov;208 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S125-30. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit319.


Immunodeficient mice engrafted with human cells and tissues have provided an exciting alternative to in vitro studies with human tissues and nonhuman primates for the study of human immunobiology. A major breakthrough in the early 2000s was the introduction of a targeted mutation in the interleukin 2 (IL-2) receptor common gamma chain (IL2rg(null)) into mice that were already deficient in T and B cells. Among other immune defects, natural killer (NK) cells are disrupted in these mice, permitting efficient engraftment with human hematopoietic cells that generate a functional human immune system. These humanized mouse models are becoming increasingly important for preclinical studies of human immunity, hematopoiesis, tissue regeneration, cancer, and infectious diseases. In particular, humanized mice have enabled studies of the pathogenesis of human-specific pathogens, including human immunodeficiency virus type 1, Epstein Barr virus, and Salmonella typhi. However, there are a number of limitations in the currently available humanized mouse models. Investigators are continuing to identify molecular mechanisms underlying the remaining defects in the engrafted human immune system and are generating "next generation" models to overcome these final deficiencies. This article provides an overview of some of the emerging models of humanized mice, their use in the study of infectious diseases, and some of the remaining limitations that are currently being addressed.

Keywords: humanized; immunobiology; infectious disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / virology*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / virology*
  • HIV-1 / pathogenicity*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Salmonella typhi / pathogenicity*
  • Typhoid Fever / immunology
  • Typhoid Fever / microbiology*