I'm reading through a number of articles that use partial hepatectomy in Mus Musculus to study the mechanisms for liver regeneration (1, 2, 3). I have no doubt that a better understanding of hepatocyte regeneration mechanisms will allow scientists to discover/create new theurapetic targets that would improve liver regeneration in mice. However, these articles seem to imply that the results of the research will be applicable to liver regeneration in humans as well.

What makes Mus Musculus a good model organism? I'm inclined to think that some mouse genes might have homological human genes; is there more to that? Bonus points for answers that would show how research on non-coding RNAs, as compared to protein-coding genes, in mice would apply to humans.

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    $\begingroup$ "I'm inclined to think" that you should do a little research before posting if you don't know the extent of the genetic similarity among mammals. And what species would you expect experiments on liver regeneration to be performed? Homo Sapiens? Finally this is not a quiz show and you can only award points by accepting or up voting an answer. We don't do bonus points here. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Sep 15, 2017 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @David "bonus points" was a figure of speech. I would gladly rephrase the question as a resource recommendation one. Go-to sources such as Model organism didn't help much, and, as an outsider to biology, I know no better sources. Finally, thanks for taking your time to explain the downvote. $\endgroup$
    – svavil
    Sep 15, 2017 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ Your question certainly needs revising because (1) it is unclear what you are asking (2) part is based on a false premise. First, you do not define model organism. Do you mean "why do scientists work on mice?" or "why is mouse a model organism for liver regeneration in humans?". Second your "thought inclinations" do not take into account that scientists have been studying liver regeneration in rodents since the middle of the last century, at which time nothing was known about non-coding (or coding) RNAs, and little about protein sequences. You should find out for yourself what is known now. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Sep 16, 2017 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Mice are mammals, like humans, so their proteins tend to show more homology with human proteins than non-mammalian options. They are also actually more closely related to humans than cats or dogs due to the relatively recent (~80 million year) separation of lineages that led to modern rodents and primates.

Mice breed fairly quickly year-round and have relatively large litters. Laboratory strains are also quite tolerant of research lab conditions.

Mice are inexpensive to keep: they are small, require little food and care, etc.

People tend to have less opposition to research in mice due to their status as pest species.

Many genetic tools are available for mice, which makes them better models for the next generation of science, which means there are more genetic tools available for the generation that follows, etc. There are now many specialized mouse lines, some for particular diseases, some for particular techniques, etc.

Mice are well-studied, so experiments in mice can be easily compared to other experiments, and there are a lot of standards for protocols. Most experiments are done on inbred mice, which have the advantage of being nearly genetically identical to each other, so experiments done in different labs are done in (nearly) genetically identical subjects which can help with reproducibility and comparisons across studies (though there are also downsides to inbred animals; see below).

None of these factors make mice perfect model organisms. Many successful experiments and treatments in mice have not translated to human outcomes. Laboratory mice are typically highly inbred and may display characteristics thought to be "normal" that are actually the result of genetic drift, founder effects, etc. These can include preferences for alcohol, tendencies toward obesity, poor immune systems compared to wild mice, etc. Some get particular tumors early. Some have seizures. Some lab mice are blind at birth or shortly after. Others have hearing problems.


Abolins, S. R., Pocock, M. J., Hafalla, J. C., Riley, E. M., & Viney, M. E. (2011). Measures of immune function of wild mice, Mus musculus. Molecular Ecology, 20(5), 881-892.

Beck, J. A., Lloyd, S., Hafezparast, M., Lennon-Pierce, M., Eppig, J. T., Festing, M. F., & Fisher, E. M. (2000). Genealogies of mouse inbred strains. Nature genetics, 24(1), 23.

Battey, J., Jordan, E., Cox, D., & Dove, W. (1999). An action plan for mouse genomics. Nature genetics, 21(1), 73-75.

Gordon, J. W., Scangos, G. A., Plotkin, D. J., Barbosa, J. A., & Ruddle, F. H. (1980). Genetic transformation of mouse embryos by microinjection of purified DNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 77(12), 7380-7384.

Justice, M. J., & Dhillon, P. (2016). Using the mouse to model human disease: increasing validity and reproducibility.

Kurien, B. T., Gross, T., & Scofield, R. H. (2005). Barbering in mice: a model for trichotillomania. Bmj, 331(7531), 1503-1505.

Lynch, V. J. (2009). Use with caution: Developmental systems divergence and potential pitfalls of animal models. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 82(2), 53.

Martin, B., Ji, S., Maudsley, S., & Mattson, M. P. (2010). “Control” laboratory rodents are metabolically morbid: why it matters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(14), 6127-6133.

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    $\begingroup$ You could also add that it is relatively easy to produce inbred strains that will be more likely to show consistent experimental results. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Sep 16, 2017 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ @David I don't know if mice are particularly easy to produce inbred strains compared to others species, though I'd happily add a reference if that's the case for some reason. I did add a section on the advantages of standardized inbred strains since I spent a paragraph describing the disadvantages. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 16, 2017 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ I don't have a reference. It must be easier than in rats (or mice are easier to breed) because there are so many more cited in the literature. Perhaps I should have said more are available. The other mundane factor is how much tissue you need and can obtain from the organism. Don't try isolating erythropoietin from fruit flies (even assuming they have it). $\endgroup$
    – David
    Sep 16, 2017 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Understood. My experience in using both mice and rats is that there just as many "wild type" inbred strains of rats as of mice, at least as would be expected by each of their prevalence as research animals. The huge numbers of available mouse strains are mostly on the same several inbred backgrounds, and that's just because of all the available genetic tools for mice to generate mutants and transgenic animals. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 16, 2017 at 20:49

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