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Reproductive tract biology: Of mice and men.


The study of male and female reproductive tract development requires expertise in two separate disciplines, developmental biology and endocrinology. For ease of experimentation and economy, the mouse has been used extensively as a model for human development and pathogenesis, and for the most part similarities in developmental processes and hormone action provide ample justification for the relevance of mouse models for human reproductive tract development. Indeed, there are many examples describing the phenotype of human genetic disorders that have a reasonably comparable phenotype in mice, attesting to the congruence between mouse and human development. However, anatomic, developmental and endocrinologic differences exist between mice and humans that (1) must be appreciated and (2) considered with caution when extrapolating information between all animal models and humans. It is critical that the investigator be aware of both the similarities and differences in organogenesis and hormone action within male and female reproductive tracts so as to focus on those features of mouse models with clear relevance to human development/pathology. This review, written by a team with extensive expertise in the anatomy, developmental biology and endocrinology of both mouse and human urogenital tracts, focusses upon the significant human/mouse differences, and when appropriate voices a cautionary note regarding extrapolation of mouse models for understanding development of human male and female reproductive tracts.

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