The liver serves as a target organ for several important pathogens, including hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV, respectively) and the human malaria parasites, all of which represent serious global health problems. Because these pathogens are restricted to human hepatocytes, research in small animals has been compromised by the frailty of the current mouse xenotransplantation models. In this issue of the JCI, Bissig et al. demonstrate robust HBV and HCV infection in a novel xenotransplantation model in which large numbers of immunodeficient mice with liver injury were engrafted with significant quantities of human hepatocytes. This technical advance paves the way for more widespread use of human liver chimeric mice and forms the basis for creating increasingly complex humanized mouse models that could prove useful for studying immunopathogenesis and vaccine development against hepatotropic pathogens.
Ype P. de Jong, Charles M. Rice, Alexander Ploss