Outbred mice can be used predict how human’s will respond to harmful chemicals with examination of chromosomal damage

A genetically diverse mouse model has been created that is capable of predicting a range of human responses to chemical exposures. Researchers from the institute’s National Toxicology Program (NTP) were able to identify specific genes or chromosomal regions that make some mice more susceptible, and others more resistant, to the toxic effects of benzene – a common air pollutant and human carcinogen found in crude oil, car exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke.

The responses of these mice to the chemical exposure were assessed by measuring the frequency of micronucleated red blood cells – a biological marker of chromosomal damage – before and after exposure. Overall, the range of responses from lowest to highest was approximately five-fold.

‘The Diversity Outbred mouse is a useful model for predicting the range of response that might be observed in humans following exposure to a chemical,’ said Linda Birnbaum, who directs the NTP. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ extramural research and training division plans to convene a meeting next spring to examine this mouse model and other population-based rodent models that can be used to advance the environmental health sciences field.