Advantages of the mouse as a model organism
Among the many advantages to using the mouse as a model organism, the most important is their striking similarity to humans in anatomy, physiology, and genetics. Over 95% of the mouse genome is similar to our own, making mouse genetic research particularly applicable to human disease.
Practically, mice are a cost-effective and efficient tool to speed research and the development of drug therapies. Mice are small, have a short generation time and an accelerated lifespan (one mouse year equals about 30 human years), keeping the costs, space, and time required to perform research manageable.
The natural variation among inbred strains provides an essential system to study complex diseases involving the interaction of multiple genes, a focal point of biomedical research and drug efficacy testing. Because many of the genes responsible for complex diseases such as atherosclerosis and hypertension are shared between mice and humans, research in mice is crucial for the identification of genetic risk factors in the human population. Naturally occurring, spontaneous mutations also often cause afflictions in mice that mimic similar human genetic diseases.
In addition, our ability to directly manipulate the mouse genome provides an incredibly powerful tool to model specific diseases for which the causative gene is known. For example, the manipulation of genes involved in human cancer has allowed for the creation of hundreds of mouse models of cancer, greatly enhancing our ability to find effective treatments for many different types of neoplasia.