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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2004 Jan;133(1):84-100. Epub 2004 Jan 12.

Do mouse models of allergic asthma mimic clinical disease?

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Experimental mouse models of allergic asthma established almost 10 years ago offered new opportunities to study disease pathogenesis and to develop new therapeutics. These models focused on the factors governing the allergic immune response, on modeling clinical behavior of allergic asthma, and led to insights into pulmonary pathophysiology. Although mouse models rarely completely reproduce all the features of human disease, after sensitization and respiratory tract challenges with antigen, wild-type mice develop a clinical syndrome that closely resembles allergic asthma, characterized by eosinophilic lung inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), increased IgE, mucus hypersecretion, and eventually, airway remodeling. There are, however, differences between mouse and human physiology that threaten to limit the value of mouse models. Three examples of such differences relate to both clinical manifestations of disease and underlying pathogenesis. First, in contrast to patients who have increased methacholine-induced AHR even when they are symptom-free, mice exhibit only transient methacholine-induced AHR following allergen exposure. Second, chronic allergen exposure in patients leads to chronic allergic asthma, whereas repeated exposures in sensitized mice causes suppression of disease. Third, IgE and mast cells, in humans, mediate early- and late-phase allergic responses, though both are unnecessary for the generation of allergic asthma in mice. Taken together, these observations suggest that mouse models of allergic asthma are not exact replicas of human disease and thus, question the validity of these models. However, observations from mouse models of allergic asthma support many existing paradigms, although some novel discoveries in mice have yet to be verified in patients. This review presents an overview of the clinical aspects of disease in mouse models of allergic asthma emphasizing (1). the factors influencing the pathophysiological responses during the initiation and perpetuation of disease, (2). the utility of mouse models for studying clinical manifestations of disease, and (3). the applicability of mouse models for testing new treatments for allergic asthma.

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