Mouse model may help predict human response to chemicals

Researchers have discovered that a genetically diverse mouse model can predict reactions to chemical exposure, findings that may help researchers better understand how humans react to similar exposure, the National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday.

“In addition to informing the design of human epidemiology studies evaluating associations between chemical exposures and biological effects in diverse populations, the Diversity Outbred mouse model may also provide valuable data for use by regulators and manufacturers conducting chemical risk assessments,” Kristine Witt, co-author of the study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, said.

To match the variance of genetics in humans, researchers at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, bread genetically unique mice. Like humans, the genetic make-up of each mouse played a role in how it was affected by certain levels of exposure. In the test, mice were subjected to benzene, a known carcinogenic found in crude oil, gasoline and tobacco. It is also found in nature in volcanoes and wildfires.

When subjected to benzene, some mice showed little to no effect while others were highly affected based on changes that scientists observed in the micronucleated red blood cells, a marker of damage to DNA. The study noted that the difference between the least and most affected subjects was at least five-fold.

With the genetic material readily available, researchers could determine which regions of the DNA had made differences and could potentially use that data in finding human genes that are resistant to chemical exposure.

In the spring of 2015, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Services' Division of Extramural Research and Training will hold a meeting to look at this type of test model and other rodent population models, and how they can further environmental health studies.

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