Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Knockout Mouse Ranching - Revisited

Of Mice, Money, Management & Miracles

The business of raising mice for medical research is not just an enterprise where a student researcher “finds” a rare mouse with a peculiar genetic characteristic anymore. It has become “ranching” on steroids where genetic outcomes can be created and delivered through a process called Knockout!

Monday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced plans to expand the libraries of research knockout mice in the public sector. The goal of this effort was stated that, "In total, NIH anticipates that more than 300 existing mouse mutants will be deposited and made available to the research community over the next two years."

Excerpts from a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) via EurkAlert -

California, Missouri Centers receive funding to expand access to mouse models of human disease
Public release date: 12-Jun-2006 -- Contact: Geoff Spencer - NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

BETHESDA, Md. – As part of its ongoing effort to build a public, genome-wide library of "knockout" mouse models for the study of human disease, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today awarded $800,000 to two public mouse repositories to acquire genetically engineered mouse lines not yet widely accessible to researchers.

In the two decades since recombinant DNA technology was first used to produce lines of mice in which specific genes have been disrupted, or "knocked out," such mice have proven to be one of the most powerful tools available to study the function of genes and to create animal models of human disease. Researchers have generated knockout mice to serve as useful models of human diseases such as cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders and even obesity.

"NIH is committed to making knockout mouse models more widely accessible to the biomedical research community," said National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Director James Battey, M.D., Ph.D., who is chairman of the Trans-NIH Mouse Initiative. "Getting these valuable models into the hands of a wide range of researchers will serve to accelerate our efforts to develop new strategies for understanding and treating human disease."
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To facilitate sharing, the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) supports a network of public repositories that archive and distribute mouse strains. The network includes the Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Centers (MMRRC) at the University of California, Davis; the University of Missouri/Harlan facility in Columbia; the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Depositing mice in centralized repositories ensures ready availability of lines at a reasonable cost, standardizes the animals' health status and guarantees long-term preservation of lines. However, more than 3,000 of the approximately 4,000 knockout mouse lines described in the scientific literature have not yet been placed in public repositories. To increase the availability of these mouse models, the NIH Knockout Mouse Project has initiated an effort to encourage more NIH-supported researchers to place their knockout mouse lines into public repositories.
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"We are very pleased that the NCRR's network of mouse repositories will be working together to carry out this effort. The network has an excellent track record of acquiring, maintaining and distributing mutant mouse lines. By leveraging existing infrastructure and resources, we will be able to make these mice available to researchers in a timely, cost-effective manner," said NCRR Acting Director Barbara M. Alving, M.D.

The Knockout Mouse Project is a trans-NIH initiative that aims to produce, in the next five years, a comprehensive resource of mouse mutants in which each of the approximately 20,000 genes in the mouse genome has been knocked out. The resource will greatly enhance the already considerable value of the mouse in the study of human health and disease.
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Yesterday, I was given a bit of perspective about Genomes and other natural phenomena while listening to Dennis Prager interview Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute.

In his book, "The Language of God", Francis Collins claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”.

Excerpts from the Sunday Times - Britain -

I’ve found God, says man who cracked the genome
By Steven Swinford - The Sunday Times - June 11, 2006

THE scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real.
Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”.

His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will reopen the age-old debate about the relationship between science and faith. “One of the great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war,” said Collins, 56.

“I don’t see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply disappointing that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this spectrum have dominated the stage for the past 20 years.”
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“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”

Collins joins a line of scientists whose research deepened their belief in God. Isaac Newton, whose discovery of the laws of gravity reshaped our understanding of the universe, said: “This most beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”
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“I see God’s hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God chose to create human beings in his image and decided that the mechanism of evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal, who are we to say that is not the way,” he says.

“Scientifically, the forces of evolution by natural selection have been profoundly affected for humankind by the changes in culture and environment and the expansion of the human species to 6 billion members. So what you see is pretty much what you get.”
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His epiphany came when he went hiking through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. He said: “It was a beautiful afternoon and suddenly the remarkable beauty of creation around me was so overwhelming, I felt, ‘I cannot resist this another moment’.”

Collins believes that science cannot be used to refute the existence of God because it is confined to the “natural” world. In this light he believes miracles are a real possibility. “If one is willing to accept the existence of God or some supernatural force outside nature then it is not a logical problem to admit that, occasionally, a supernatural force might stage an invasion,” he says.

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I guess it can be said in accordance with the beliefs of Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, the medical miracles derived from Knockout Mouse Ranching are just an extension of God's power and design.

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