Atherosclerotic lesions in mouse and man: is it the same disease?

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Purpose of review

Genetically-engineered mice with hyperlipidemia are the most widely used atherosclerosis models today, but recent advances in transgenesis open the possibility to create new models in alternative species, such as the rat and pig. It seems relevant at this point in time to review some of the strengths and weaknesses of the mouse.

Recent findings

The histology of lesion development in mouse and man has more similarities than differences, and comparative genetics show that many mechanisms of murine and human atherogenesis are shared. Unfortunately, the most feared complication of human atherosclerosis, that is, plaque rupture and thrombosis, occur extremely rarely in mice. This is a major problem. Most patients today are not treated before symptoms ensue, and at this late stage of the disease, mechanisms identified during plaque development in the mouse may not be very important.


Murine atherosclerosis models are highly valuable for identifying atherogenic mechanisms that can be targeted by preventive medicine. However, models with thrombotic complications and large animal models suitable for interventional procedures and imaging would be more supportive for current clinical practice and are highly wanted.

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