Joshua Brickman about the significance of GMO mice to research – University of Copenhagen

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10 February 2017

Joshua Brickman about the significance of GMO mice to research


In an interview to, Professor Joshua Brickman explains the significance of GMO mice to research.

Professor Joshua Brickman and his group work in close collaboration with Cord Brakebusch, the head of the Transgenic Unit at the Panum institute by using mice to investigate fundamental questions about how stem cells divide.

In Cord Brakebusch's laboratory, researchers can order mice with the exact genetic structure they would like to investigate. If a group of scientists suspects that a particular gene variant increases the risk for a particular disease, a designed mouse with that specific gene variant could be made. That enables checking if the mouse gets sick. "GMO mice can provide fundamental knowledge about the beginning of life", says Joshua Brickman.

A genetically modified mouse (Mus musculus) is a mouse that has had its genome altered through the use of genetic engineering techniques. Genetically modified mice are commonly used for research or as animal models of human diseases.


GMO mice being used in several contexts:

  • to examine the role of specific genes play in different diseases
  • to test new drugs
  • to research how stem cells function


Researchers inject genetically engineered stem cells (iPSC) cells into mouse embryos and see how the mouse pups develop.

"We look at the cells very early in development and get close to the beginning of life. It is really basic research into how life develops from embryonic stem cells into specialized cells in the body's tissues, "says Joshua Brickman.

"We are interested in finding out where the information is coming from, which means that the embryonic stem cells organize themselves and become skin cells, muscle cells or other cells of the body. How do they understand what they need? This is really a big question, " adds Professor Brickman.

Embryonic stem cells are the seeds of life: This is the very first cells of an embryo and are pluripotent, which means they can divide unlimited and turn into all cell types of the body.


In addition to providing insight into how life develops from the very earliest cells, the mouse experiments, such as Joshua Brickman is doing, provide information which is necessary in order to make effective stem cell therapy in humans.

The hope is that stem cell transplants can cure people who have diseases in which cells in the body are defected. It may be, for example Alzheimer's disease or Multiple Sclerosis, wherein the brain cells are affected.

So far scientists are still exploring how to control embryonic stem cells so that they become healthy cells that can cure illnesses. The risk is that transplanted embryonic cells divide and turn into cancerous tumors.

If, researchers will find out how embryonic stem cells develop and how they get the information to become specialized cells in the body, an important step closer to effective stem cell therapy will be made.

You can read the full interview via the following link: