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What Have Mice Genes Got to do with Humans?

by Heather Whitney 3 months ago in Nature
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Are mice and humans connected?

Aside from bonobo and chimpanzee, mice are other animals with close similarities with humans. Mice may not bear humans' resemblance and behavioral characteristics, but they surprisingly make up for these with their genes.

Here, you will learn about mice genes and how similar they're to human genes.

Humans and Mice Genes

There's a lot of connection to be drawn between humans and animals. Anthropologists would even say that humans evolved from animals to become who they are today. Scientifically, also, it has been established that humans and mammals have long shared a common ancestor, approximately some 80 million years ago.

Though not all animals have huge similarities with humans, there are some that you cannot but wonder why there is no such difference. For instance, Bonobo and Chimpanzee have been regarded as humans’ closest relatives. Also, cats, cows, and even bananas share genetic connections with humans.

However, fingers have always pointed to mice when it boils down to a genetically micro animal in human form. The reason? Of course, because of their genes!

Generally, humans and mice have approximately the exact set of genes. And here is where it gets a bit more technical. The human and mouse genome have about 3.1 billion chemical letters. Of these, just about 5% consists of protein-coding regions. More than 90% of the genomes are non-coding. They have no known functions and are generally referred to as "junk."

Averagely, the protein-coding regions of the human and mouse genomes are 85% identical, while some are about 99% identical. These protein-coding regions have been conserved evolutionarily because they are necessary for some functions. Therefore, it makes sense that when the comparison is drawn between these two DNA regions, their functional elements stand out similarly.

How Many Genes Do Mice Have?

Of the genes present in mice, the protein-coding genes are what are of relevance to this post. The protein-coding genes in mice are around 30,000. Of these, less than 1% do not have an ortholog in other species.

Aside from this, the catalog of predicted mice genes has about 1200 new genes, with many of them closely associated with human diseases.

How Much DNA Does a Human Share with a Mouse?

The human body has about 3 billion genetic building blocks that characterize everyone as human. Of these 3 billion genetic building blocks, just about 1% is unique to each human. This means that there is about 99% genetic similarity with other humans.

These similarities in DNA are not only shared with other humans but also with animals like mice; however, not in the same quantity.

About 99% of genes in mice are also found in humans, with about 80% having one-to-one, identical counterparts.

This huge similarity mice genes share with human DNA has made mice the only mammal (aside from humans) whose genes have been sequenced.

Why are Mice Used in Genetic Experiments?

Of course, mice and humans don't share a similarity in resemblance, so linking why mice are used for humans' genetic experiments may require some digging. Nevertheless, here're some of the reasons.

They are both Mammals:

First, they are biologically similar. One fact about humans and mice is that both are mammals, and not just that, they shared an ancestor about 80 million years ago. This makes their genes quite similar to that of mice so as to be used as genetic experiments for humans.

Their Genes Share Similar Functions:

Aside from this, almost all the genes in mice have the same functions as humans. This means that humans and mice develop the same way, from eggs and sperm. Also, both develop similar organs like the brain, kidneys, heart, lungs, etc. In addition, the circulatory, digestive, reproductive, nervous, and hormonal systems are very similar.

All these similarities make it easy for scientists to understudy mice’s physiology to understand the growth of humans. It also enables them to understand the development of diseases in humans and aging.

They Have a Similar Way of Inheriting Straight:

These similar genes also point to the fact that humans and mice have a structural way of inheriting traits.

For instance, their way of inheriting traits like hair color is similar. There is also a similarity in the susceptibility to diseases in both mammals. E.g. Alzheimer's and heart disease.

Mice’ Live a Short Lifespan:

Another valid reason scientists use mice for genetic experiments is the ease of getting mice to compare to other animals. Generally, mice live a relatable short life (about two years when in laboratory care, and less than that when in the wild).

With this short life span, scientists believe that it is pretty easy to learn a lot about the life span of humans from the study of the lifetime of mice.

Mice are Easy to Maintain:

Mice are also easy to maintain and are very small, making them ideal for a laboratory genetic experiment. They are also easy to get and keep without any much negative effect for the scientists.

There are Different Strains of Mice:

Today, there are more than a thousand laboratory mouse strains, making it easy for a scientist to select the ideal mouse for their genetic model.

Also, mice genomes allow easy manipulation to create more precise genetic models for different diseases.

There’s a Lot of Data Available on Mice Already:

Besides this, scientists' study of laboratory mice has been ongoing for more than a century. This makes the small mammal's genetic and biological components known to scientists compared to any other animal. Moreover, their data makes scientific research easy to carry out.

When you collectively consider all of these, you would realize that scientists could not have wanted a different animal for their laboratory research.


The summary is that mice and human genes are very similar. This explains why scientists love using mice as their models for human experiments. Researching mice, for example, their senses and communication methods, helps us learn about their world and their role in the eco system.

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Heather Whitney

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