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How Well Do Mice Model Humans?

STRIKING RESEMBLANCE: James Croom, who studies Down syndrome mice at North Carolina State University, says the animals are providing valuable information useful to humans. When a page-one article in the May 3, 1998, Sunday New York Times portrayed angiogenesis inhibitors that fight cancer in mice as being possible just around the corner for humans, criticism for raising false hopes erupted. Merely 10 weeks later, however, when researchers from the University of Hawaii reported cloning the fi

Ricki Lewis


STRIKING RESEMBLANCE: James Croom, who studies Down syndrome mice at North Carolina State University, says the animals are providing valuable information useful to humans.
When a page-one article in the May 3, 1998, Sunday New York Times portrayed angiogenesis inhibitors that fight cancer in mice as being possible just around the corner for humans, criticism for raising false hopes erupted. Merely 10 weeks later, however, when researchers from the University of Hawaii reported cloning the first mouse from an adult cell's nucleus, many scientists regarded the work as a signal that cloning humans had come a giant step closer. How can the mouse be deemed too unlike humans in the first circumstance to provide useful information, yet disturbingly similar in the second?

The fact is, researchers say, mice provide an excellent model of human physiology, but that is just what they are--a model. "People have a basic misunderstanding of the...

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