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"This gives us an opportunity to invigorate our historic relationship with the Jackson Lab by funding projects that are relevant to the aims of both TJL and HHMI and are also cutting edge," says David Clayton, HHMI's chief scientific officer, noting that HHMI has collaborated with TJL since the 1980s.
About 75 percent of the nearly 3,000 mouse strains at TJL are stored as frozen embryos or sperm. Cryopreservation is efficient, but recovering live mice requires techniques not widely used in HHMI labs. So part of the initiative focuses on training lab staff and developing better cryopreservation approaches. Other goals include creating more effective ways to tag individual mice and enhancing mouse colony management software that was largely developed by HHMI investigator Simon W.M. John.
Perlman says the Institute is planning another project to help defray the costs of archiving mutant mice developed in HHMI labs. With HHMI partially covering the expenses, Perlman expects the labs to break even in the first year. "We're always looking for ways we can improve how research is being done," he notes.
Because many mutant mice do not look any different from wild-type mice or from other mutant mice, DNA genotyping of every mouse born in a mouse facility is a necessary part of mouse research. This genotyping determines which individual mice have certain mutant and wild-type genes. It is a time-consuming and costly activity, which is why HHMI is funding the pilot program with Transnetyx. More than 70 HHMI investigators are now trying out the company's automated approach to mouse genotyping.
"This is the kind of work that is repetitious and not very interesting for a researcher to do, but we have to know the answer," says Richard A. Flavell, an HHMI investigator at Yale University School of Medicine and one of the scientists participating in the program.
Each of these initiatives can make mouse research in HHMI laboratories a little more efficient and can potentially reduce the cost of mouse breeding for research. Notes Perlman, "Whichever projects prove to be effective for HHMI researchers will also be useful for the wider community of mouse researchers."