This is a guest post composed as part of the NSF Science: Becoming the Messenger Workshop in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Biomedical research, an essential component of scientific research has helped us learning about health problems and diagnostic/therapeutic solutions for them. Through biomedical research we have learnt about hundreds of diseases, why and how they are caused and more importantly how they can be cured with the discovery of suitable drugs.
It is noteworthy that almost every medicine discovered has been tried on mouse models before they are approved for human use. Use of laboratory mice has tremendously enhanced our understanding of how and why a particular disease occurs and also how we can discover new diagnostic and therapeutic agents. That being said, to learn about a disease and also to discover diagnostic and therapeutic agents we cannot just use a regular mice (termed wild type) that has no disease to start with; for example we cannot test how anti-cancer drugs work in a mouse that has no cancer. Advances in biomedical research has lead to the discovery of a particular gene(s) responsible for a given disease and modern genetic engineering methods have helped create mice that are mutated in such gene(s) to generate so called a” mutant mouse” that now will have disease symptoms.
With the advances in human genome sequencing now we know all the mouse gene(s) that correspond to human genes. We can create a mouse model that mimics almost every human disease by using genetic engineering to create disease models called knockout mice. Finally, the advances in genetic engineering techniques to create a mouse model that can even represent an individual patient’s disease condition that would help in personalized medicine.