Virtues and limitations of the preimplantation mouse embryo as a model system.


R A. Taft

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see Reprint Collection (a pdf is available).

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Theriogenology 2008 Jan; 69(1):10-6.


The mouse is the most widely used model of preimplantation embryo development, but is it a good model? Its small size, prolificacy and ease of handling make the mouse a relatively low cost, readily available and attractive alternative when embryos from other species are difficult or expensive to obtain. However, the real power of the mouse as a model lies in mouse genetics. The development of inbred mouse strains facilitated gene discovery as well as our understanding of gene function and regulation while the development of tools to introduce precise genetic modifications uniquely positioned the mouse as a powerful model system for uncovering gene function. However, all models have limitations; the small size of the mouse limits tissue availability and manipulations that can be performed and differences in physiology among species may make it inappropriate to extrapolate from the mouse to other species. Thus, rather than extrapolating directly from the mouse to other species, it may be more useful to use the mouse as a model system for developing and refining hypotheses to be tested directly in species of interest. In this brief review, the value of the preimplantation mouse embryo as a model is considered, both as a model for other species and as a model for the mouse, as understanding the virtues and limitations of the mouse as a model system is essential to its appropriate use.

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