Many preclinical studies in critical care medicine and related disciplines rely on hypothesis-driven research in mice. The underlying premise posits that mice sufficiently emulate numerous pathophysiologic alterations produced by trauma/sepsis and can serve as an experimental platform for answering clinically relevant questions. Recently, the lay press severely criticized the translational relevance of mouse models in critical care medicine. A series of provocative editorials were elicited by a highly publicized research report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS; February 2013), which identified an unrecognized gene expression profile mismatch between human and murine leukocytes following burn/trauma/endotoxemia. Based on their data, the authors concluded that mouse models of trauma/inflammation are unsuitable for studying corresponding human conditions. We believe this conclusion was not justified. In conjunction with resulting negative commentary in the popular press, it can seriously jeopardize future basic research in critical care medicine. We will address some limitations of that PNAS report to provide a framework for discussing its conclusions and attempt to present a balanced summary of strengths/weaknesses of use of mouse models. While many investigators agree that animal research is a central component for improved patient outcomes, it is important to acknowledge known limitations in clinical translation from mouse to man. The scientific community is responsible to discuss valid limitations without overinterpretation. Hopefully, a balanced view of the strengths/weaknesses of using animals for trauma/endotoxemia/critical care research will not result in hasty discount of the clear need for using animals to advance treatment of critically ill patients.
- Mouse models of critical illness