Human-derived models are an exciting alternative, but rodents are still relevant. Our coverage of Neuroscience 2019 continues

Earlier this year, an international team of scientists led by the Allen Institute of Brain Research went where no laboratory to date had been before. The team mapped the organization of individual cell types in different layers of the human cortex, and produced an ultra-high resolution comparison between the human and mouse brain cell types.

While the results indicated that the majority of human brain cells have a mouse equivalent, there were also extensive differences between the homologous human and mouse cell types. Their conclusion was that these key differences might be why so many psychiatric drugs developed in mouse models failed to work in humans.

Which begs the question, is the mouse model really still useful in CNS research? That was the issue explored during a Neuroscience 2019 conversation between Carina Peritore, PhD, Product Manager, Neuroscience Discovery and Antti Nurmi, PhD, Managing Director Discovery and Imaging in Kuopio, Finland site, which specializes in CNS research.  Both are part of Charles River Laboratories.

Dr. Nurmi said if there is one thing we have learned from studies of new compounds is that we can’t extrapolate the findings from rodents too far.  Moreover, the trend in human-derived cells could provide another avenue forward for drug developers, “It could be that in the future, when technologies have developed enough, that we will see more tissue cultures, organoids, even 3D bioprinting of miniature brains using human cells that prove to be even better than animal models,” says Nurmi.

The growth of these in vitro model cannot be overstated. Organoids, which can be derived from either adult stem cells or pluripotent stem cells and grown to resemble various organs, hold great promise for the development of new treatments.

 “I don’t think we are even there yet, not even close. There is a lot of groundbreaking work that we need to do to confirm that we can do that,” says Dr. Nurmi, “But it may be that in the future we may use rodent models in more of a targeted fashion to address very limited and narrow questions, rather than trying to understand complex disease biology.”

During Neuroscience 2019, drop by Booth 1043 to learn more about how Charles River is using animal models and in vitro models to study diseases of  the CNS.  And follow the conversation on Eureka, Charles River’s science blog.