Malignant gliomas are primary tumors of the central nervous system characterized by diffuse infiltration into the brain and a high recurrence rate. Advances in comprehensive genomic studies have provided unprecedented insight into the genetic and molecular heterogeneity of these tumors and refined our understanding of their evolution from low to high grade. However, similar levels of phenotypic characterization are indispensable to understanding the complexity of malignant gliomas. Experimental glioma models have also achieved great progress in recent years. Advances in transgenic technologies and cell culture have allowed the establishment of mouse models that mirror the human disease with increasing fidelity and which support single-cell resolution for phenotypic analyses. Here we review the major types of preclinical glioma models, with an emphasis on how recent developments in experimental modeling have shed new light on two fundamental aspects of glioma phenotype, their cell of origin and their invasive potential.
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