Biologists researching diseases will frequently use animal models. The way I understand it, there are species of animals, such as "mouse", and lines of mice, such as Black six, NMRI or also genetically engineered lines like B6.Cg-Tg(CAG-cre/Esr1*)5Amc/J. But they also sometimes take cell lines such as HeLa and transplant them into animals, or treat them in vitro.

Is there a word which covers both "animal line" and "cell line" and is in widespread use? I thought that "model organism" would be a good way to express it, but a biologist working in disease models told me that when she hears that, she only thinks of animals, never of cell lines. She wasn't able to come up with a term which covers both. Her best try was "experimental system", but she conceded that, if used out of context, no biologist would recognize that it is about animal and cell lines.

  • $\begingroup$ 'disease models' sounds pretty good actually. maybe 'model system' $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ Is there any relevance in discerning or not discerning cell line and animal line apart from terminology? If you combine a transplant with a host - and there is no rejection - this might still not be an "animal line", as there are - in spite of non rejection of transplant - are different, allogenic MHC cells, in that animal line. It is not a "cell line" either. You are not asking about combining allogenic cells i.e. you are not asking for a term that denotes transplanting cell line into animal line? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 14:54

1 Answer 1


There is no super-term that I can think of but you could say genetically modified (mouse) samples/specimens?

  • $\begingroup$ No, because not all mice or cells are genetically modified. The Black Six and NMRI I listed above are examples of wildtype mice, and they are still lab lines. $\endgroup$
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 12:23

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