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Better dirty

Getting the dirt on mouse models

By Karen Tkach, Staff Writer

While squeaky-clean mouse husbandry has established standardized, reductionist models of mammalian physiology, the practice might be limiting the effective translation of mouse research, especially in the age of immunotherapy, according to two academic teams who have characterized how getting mice "dirty" changes the animals' immunological baselines and responses to infections or vaccines.

In studies published in Nature and Cell Host & Microbe last month, the teams used different methods but converged on the same idea: dirty mice represent adults better, and "clean" mouse models are for babies. "In a lot of studies, the lab mice are starting from a place that's perhaps very similar to a newborn human, but not to most of us," said Stephen Jameson, principal investigator on the Nature study and a professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at University of Minnesota.

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