Everyone's talking about personalized medicine. It doesn't get more personalized than having your very own mouse model, implanted with your tissue that can mimic your biology and be used to test drugs or treatments to see if they'll work, says Popular Science's Rebecca Boyle. "Two teams of researchers have been working on personalized mouse models, or mouse avatars, that can serve as test beds for doctors looking for the right treatments," Boyle says. "Physicians could try different combinations of drugs to see what works best, and if they make some mistakes, it's OK because it's a mouse, not a human patient."
In one study, Australian researchers determined the genetic mutations of a pancreatic cancer patient, grafted the patient's tumor tissue onto a mouse, and used the mouse to test a cancer drug they thought might work for the patient, Boyle says. Researchers at Columbia University in New York created a mouse avatar of a human immune system and used it to study autoimmune diseases. "Though personalizing a mouse is tricky and can take precious time … these studies herald a future when personalized medicine means more than just genetic profiles," she adds. "If doctors can test their hypotheses on a virtual you, rather than testing you directly, they might feel free to take more risks."