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New Agreements on Mice
With the use of laboratory mice skyrocketing, it's no surprise that scientists across the country face a murine housing crunch—and that's just for starters. Not only do the mice represent a significant investment of time and laboratory resources but requirements by organizations like HHMI and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mean that researchers also have to find cost-effective ways to share mouse stocks with their colleagues and preserve them for future experiments.
"Because most institutions' facilities are bursting at the seams, any way that you can more effectively maintain your mouse colonies will be a big benefit to the community," says Nathaniel Heintz, an HHMI investigator at the Rockefeller University. He ought to know: Heintz has created hundreds of transgenic mice in studying the development of the mammalian brain and deposited many of them in an NIH-supported facility that makes them available at nominal cost.
More than one-third of HHMI's 321 investigators now use laboratory mice in their research, and that percentage is likely to increase. With spending on animal breeding and maintenance hitting an estimated $47 million between 2002 and 2004, an Institute-wide initiative was required.
Enter Philip Perlman, one of HHMI's senior scientific officers, whose own research focused on mitochondrial genes in yeast—a more manageable model organism. Perlman has spent the past 18 months identifying approaches to improve the management of mouse colonies in HHMI laboratories so that resources could be freed up for more research.
After consulting with HHMI investigators, several NIH scientists, and experts in mouse genetics and animal care, the Institute has taken two steps. First, it has entered into a new agreement with the Jackson Laboratory (TJL), the leading independent center for mouse genetics in the United States, as well as one of three NIH-supported mouse repositories and home to two HHMI investigators. The agreement focuses on improving ways to archive and distribute valuable strains of mice and develop better tools for managing mouse colonies. Second, HHMI is running a short-term trial program with Transnetyx, a Memphis-based company, to outsource genotyping, the important task of determining the genetics of a mouse.
Photo: Courtesy of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas