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Last Update: 2007-01-10   Source: Research Headlines
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Transatlantic cooperation creating world's largest genome bank

The European Commission, US National Institutes of Health and Genome Canada are co-funding a global collaborative research programme aiming at creating mutant mouse lines in every single gene present in the mouse genome. The goal is to better understand the ways a single gene influences the health and well-being of mice by deleting, or “knocking out”, individual genes. Through the study of the mouse genome, researchers expect to gain invaluable insight into disease processes in humans, as mice and humans share 99 percent of their genetic code. In addition to the current initiative, the EU has invested over €135 million since 2002 in mouse functional genomics, easily putting Europe at the forefront of genomic research.

The mouse genome holds a wealth of information regarding human diseases, though unlocking it won't come cheap. © Matt+
The mouse genome holds a wealth of information regarding human diseases, though unlocking it won't come cheap.
Researchers plan to make each mutant line of mouse created through the international project publicly available to all scientists. By conducting the experiment on such a large scale, experts will generate the modified mice in a standardised and cost-effective manner.

A recent Nature article on the initiative notes that similar such experiments are not widely reported due to the fact that they are often carried out in the private sector. It goes on the say that out of the 4 000 mutant K.O. lines that have been published, only 1 000 are open to public use.

“There isn't a common mechanism in place to enforce deposition of K.O. mouse lines into public repositories,” Wolfgang Wurst, coordinator of the European Conditional Knockout Mouse Mutagenesis (EUCOMM) initiative, told Nature. So, experts decided to “generate a comprehensive and public resource of mouse mutant lines,” Nature reports.

This international collaborative project is one of the largest research endeavours ever conceived, second only to the Human Genome Project, to produce mutations in all the mouse genes. The project will target around 20 000 individual genes.

This world-wide mouse mutagenesis collaborative effort networks three major initiatives: The EUCOMM project financed by the European Commission with €13 million, the NorCOMM project which received €4.4 million from the Canadian government and the Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP) project financed by the US-NIH with €39.2 million.

In addition, the European Commission also supports (€12 million) a new project: European Mouse Disease Clinic (EUMODIC) to be launched in February 2007. EUMODIC aims at the detailed molecular analysis of a large number (>600) of these newly created mouse K.O. mutants lines.

The mouse experiments will give researchers the opportunity to mimic human diseases, and ultimately speed up drug development to fight those diseases.


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