A mouse that has genetic variations similar to those of a person with a disease, such as diabetes or heart disease, is called a mouse model of that disease. Mouse models enable scientists to study human diseases from before they even start and as they progress through the lifetime of the mouse (about two years).
The Jackson Laboratory's new Center for Biometric Analysis provides the world's most sophisticated suite of imaging technologies, to measure virtually every physiological characteristic of a mouse, from blood pressure to brain activity. And, new sequencing technologies enable scientists to "caption" those images with precise genetic information about which genes are turned on and which ones are turned off.
Taken together, imaging plus sequencing are known as biomarkers. And, because mouse and human genes are so similar, a biomarker for a disease in a mouse can lead to a genetic test for human patients, as well as the foundation for developing new treatments for diseases. The ultimate goal is to identify a patient's risk for a disease before it even begins; early diagnosis and preventive treatment are always better than treating advanced disease.