New Insights into the Immune System Using Dirty Mice [BRIEF REVIEWS]

The mouse (Mus musculus) is the dominant organism used to investigate the mechanisms behind complex immunological responses because of their genetic similarity to humans and our ability to manipulate those genetics to understand downstream function. Indeed, our knowledge of immune system development, response to infection, and ways to therapeutically manipulate the immune response to combat disease were, in large part, delineated in the mouse. Despite the power of mouse-based immunology research, the translational efficacy of many new therapies from mouse to human is far from ideal. Recent data have highlighted how the naive, neonate-like immune system of specific pathogen–free mice differs dramatically in composition and function to mice living under barrier-free conditions (i.e., “dirty” mice). In this review, we discuss major findings to date and challenges faced when using dirty mice and specific areas of immunology research that may benefit from using animals with robust and varied microbial exposure.

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