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A Mouse Made Just for You!

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-03/personal-mouse-avatars-will-model-your-medical-problems

In the future when you check into a hospital, doctors and physicians may assign you your own mouse. This isn’t for a pet- this is for your own diagnosis. The immune-deficient mouse, specially bred for this job, will receive a transplant of your tissue, which will allow it to mimic your immune system, or whatever your specified type of disease afflicting you. Then doctors can try out a cocktail of drugs or gene therapies to see what might work on you, using the mouse as a test first.

Two teams of researchers have been working on personalized mouse models, or mouse avatars, that can serve as test beds for doctors looking for the right treatments. Physicians could try different combinations of drugs to see what works best without the consequences of human trial and error and losing human lives. Doctors at Columbia University have created mice with human immune systems, which they are using to study autoimmune diseases.  “The work took several weeks, but in the end, the mouse had a complete human immune system, including T cells, beta cells and myeloid cells, which create other immune cells. Sykes plans to use this personalized immune mouse to study type 1 diabetes, which is caused by errant T cells attacking insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. That paper was published last week in Science Translational Medicine.”

“In one recent study, Australian researchers were working with a pancreatic cancer patient, trying to determine genetic mutations that could make his cancer susceptible to certain drugs. They grafted a piece of the patient’s tumor tissue onto mice with depleted immune systems, so the mice would not reject the transplant. They tested a cancer drug that their gene screening suggested could work, and they were right — the tumor shrank after the mice were treated.” This is a great breakthrough that presents very hopeful treatment prospects in the future for cancer patients especially, but also patients afflicted with other illnesses.

Since growing a personalized mouse is tricky and expensive, scientists are working to make it more affordable, commonplace, and more mass-produced so that hopefully in the near future, maybe as soon as 15 or 20 years, we will be able to have this personalized treatment available to nearly all patients. Research likes this shows a very promising outlook for the medical and diagnostic field. Do you guys think this is a great advancement? Do you think it work should be continued? How do you think that it will help future patients?

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  1. zmackay
    April 24, 2012 at 5:39 am

    This is a fascinating development, one which brings to mind so many questions both concerning scientific discovery and societal dilemmas. To me, even as a pre-med student, it sounds almost post-apocalypitic, this kind of technological advancement. Although on one hand I am fascinated to see where this kind of experimentation takes us, I cannot help but hope that researchers will exercise some caution before moving into its implementation phase. How many drugs have been recalled because their creators did not, for whatever reason, anticipate negative consequences? Although this seems to be a wonderful solution to diagnostic complications, I think that researchers will have take into careful consideration the effects of making such a radically genetically altered avatar so universally accessible.
    Then again, when one considers how many species have been genetically altered for far less noble purposes, including the quality of meat and other produce, this does not seem so far fetched. What will be very interesting is seeing and measuring patients response, both physical and psychological, to this innovation.

  2. April 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    This is SO intriguing! I have to say that whoever came up with this idea is incredibly creative. I think that this idea has the potential to raise the bar for the standard of medical treatment. Yet, at the same time, I see many potential flaws with the design because mice most certainly are not the same as humans. Even though they will “mimic” the human’s genetic disposition, there is always the potential for flaws. Really though, I see the potential for many lawsuits. “The doctors told me that since the mouse was cancer free, I would be too. Then I relapsed.” Boom. While there is always the potential for malpractice, I think that using mice could increase this. On the other hand, if using mice could improve diagnostics and treatment, I believe that it is definitely worth using.

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