Mouse models of human disease: An evolutionary perspective

Evol Med Public Health. 2016 May 21;2016(1):170-6. doi: 10.1093/emph/eow014. Print 2016.


The use of mice as model organisms to study human biology is predicated on the genetic and physiological similarities between the species. Nonetheless, mice and humans have evolved in and become adapted to different environments and so, despite their phylogenetic relatedness, they have become very different organisms. Mice often respond to experimental interventions in ways that differ strikingly from humans. Mice are invaluable for studying biological processes that have been conserved during the evolution of the rodent and primate lineages and for investigating the developmental mechanisms by which the conserved mammalian genome gives rise to a variety of different species. Mice are less reliable as models of human disease, however, because the networks linking genes to disease are likely to differ between the two species. The use of mice in biomedical research needs to take account of the evolved differences as well as the similarities between mice and humans.

Keywords: allometry; cancer; gene networks; life history; model organisms.