Mice play a significant role in medical research. They can help scientists to study complex medical conditions as they have similar biological processes to humans.

Also known as murine studies, these terms refer to research studies that scientists conduct on mouse models. The National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) notes that 95% of laboratory animals are mouse models.

Research from 2022 suggests that scientists conduct experiments with over 120 million mice and rats across the globe. The authors note that most mouse studies are unpublished and non-translatable, signaling that those research projects did not achieve desired results.

This article provides an overview of murine studies and why scientists use mice.

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A female laboratory assistant with a pair of mice that have been injected with an extract of tuberculosis as part of research to find an immunising agent for the disease in New York in 1949. FPG/Getty Images

Murine studies describe scientific studies where people use mouse models. The earliest record of animal experimentation dates back to 2,400 years ago when Greek people documented surgery and medications using mice.

Researchers identified early on that mice share many biological and genetic similarities with humans. As such, researchers could study mice to gain insight into various medical conditions, including cancer and rare diseases.

Scientists developed mouse models by selecting and breeding mice to produce offspring with specific desirable characteristics. Now, they can use them to simulate human genetic disorders.

According to a 2016 study, the house mouse Mus musculus is the species of mouse researchers most commonly use in present-day research.

Mice are particularly useful in genetic studies, as researchers can easily manipulate the mouse genome, or DNA, to study the effects of specific gene variations. Murine studies can help scientists understand the underlying mechanisms of diseases, how they transmit to offspring, the efficacy of potential treatments, and the effectiveness of new therapeutic interventions.

However, it is essential to note that scientists emphasize that murine studies have limitations and may not always accurately reflect the complexities of human diseases. Therefore, researchers must validate findings from murine studies in clinical trials and test for efficacy before applying them to humans.

Mice are the most common animal model in medical and scientific research. They can help researchers gain clinical insight due to:

  • Genetic similarity: Mice share common genetic features with humans. As such, scientists can manipulate the mouse genome, model specific diseases, test new drugs, and investigate the genetics of diseases before trying them on human models.
  • Systemic advantage and similarity: Research from 2016 indicates that the organ system in mice is similar to that of humans in shape, structure, and physiology. Mice develop the same way as humans, having similar organs, such as the heart, lung, brain, and kidney — as well as similar digestive, circulatory, reproductive, and nervous systems.
  • Economic importance According to a 2022 report, mice are small, have a short lifespan, and do well in captivity. They also tolerate human handling well and live and breed rapidly in small areas compared with other animal models. Their small size, cost-effectiveness, and flexible diet are essential to their success as a model system.
  • Human disease research: According to a 2016 study, scientists rely extensively on mouse models to understand the underlying mechanisms of several diseases. As such, it is easier for scientists to explore the efficacy of candidate drugs and predict human responses using mouse models.

Evidence highlights the clinical importance and scientific significance of mouse studies. This includes:

Clinical research

The advancements in drug discovery, detection, and production of new therapies for some rare conditions are due to mice studies. Evidence from 2020 indicates that scientists can use mouse models to capture the stages of disease progression.

Mice can model the genetic diversity of human populations, which may lack adequate representation. The difficulty in understanding environmental factors influencing disease development limits various human studies. In contrast, scientists can control and modulate the murine environment for genetic insights.

DNA similarity

According to a National Human Genome Research Institute report, mice and humans share about 70% of the same protein-coding genes. This makes mouse genetic research valuable for studying some human diseases.

A 2017 study notes that humans and mice have 90% genomic similarity. The authors note that while other organisms are excellent models, mice are far better tools for exploring the complex physiological systems of humans.

Today, researchers have generated over 5,000 mouse models with genotypes for about 1,500 human diseases. This includes genetically inherited conditions, neuromuscular disorders, mental conditions, and cancer research.

Although mice studies have generated controversies, the scientific community accepts and validates the use of animals for research only within ethical frameworks. These acts evaluate the level of harm of a research project with the potential benefits before approval.

Murine studies describe research on mice for scientific or medical purposes. Mice are a suitable model for various medical research due to common links and associations with the human genome.

Scientists also use mouse models due to their economic importance, physiological similarities, and relevance to human research. Additionally, the scientific community works within frameworks to ensure they maintain ethical standards and that studies help advance human research.