Immunological Differences Between Lab Mice and Wild Mice

Discrepancies in the populations’ immune systems suggest murine models of immunological disorders possess more limitations than scientists had appreciated.

May 5, 2017
Diana Kwon

PIXABAY, ALEXAS_FOTOSDespite being one of the most commonly used animals in biomedical research, laboratory mice may not be make the best models for immunology studies, according to a paper published this week (May 3) in Nature Communications.

Researchers at the University of Bristol and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine compared the immune systems of 181 wild-caught house mice with 64 laboratory-raised animals (Mus musculus domesticus). Compared to the lab mice, the wild mice had highly active immune systems, and 57 of 62 immunological measures, such as serum protein concentrations and natural killer cell populations, differed between the two groups. Lab mice also displayed more sex-related differences than wild ones.

“These results point to us having to be much more cautious in extrapolating from the lab to the wild, but laboratory mouse models will continue to be hugely important in biological and biomedical research,” coauthor Mark Viney said in a statement.

In 2013, another group of researchers reported that murine models do not accurately mimic the genomic responses observed in human inflammatory disease. However, at the time, scientists not involved in the study told The Scientist that different mouse strains needed to be investigated before drawing conclusions.

See “Do Mice Make Bad Models?”