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scientists react to publication of the draft mouse genome

The work on the mouse genome, carried out by the Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium, was published in Nature.

Richard Gardner, Royal Society Research Professor at the Department of Zoology, Oxford University, said:

“This is significant achievement because it essentially tells us what the mouse’s genome looks like. The mouse is widely used as a model system for understanding the genetic basis of development and function in humans. The next, much harder, stage will be to exploit this new knowledge to discover exactly how this genome works.”

Dr Simon Festing, Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“For hundreds of years we have watched curiously as mice run round wheels, press levers or navigate mazes. Finally we have the genetic blueprint that will unveil the mysteries of the mouse and will prove invaluable for human medical research.”

Dr Ian Jackson, Senior Scientist at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, said:

“available on the internet for several months, and it has already made a huge difference to the way mouse geneticists work. In my lab we are trying to identify genes involved in human disease by studying mutated DNA in mice. This genome map gives us a pretty comprehensive view of the genes in there.

“The number of mice used in genetic and transgenic experiments is increasing. But the mouse genome makes every experiment we do far more efficient, allowing us to learn more from fewer animals.

“Many traits such as aspects of behaviour, susceptibility to infection, and response to the environment, vary between inbred strains of lab mice. It now looks like many of these traits could be controlled by the combination of genes between different strains, thus producing mice that are better models for human disease.”

Professor Chris Ponting of the Medical Research Council’s Functional Genetics Unit, who has already analysed mouse proteins and genes uncovered by this genome project, said:

“It is as important to understand what makes us different, as what makes us similar, to other animals. It’s fascinating to see how each species has adapted to its own ecological environment. Now, though, we can use the new genome sequences to reveal how conflict has remodelled the animals down to their very genes.

“When we started to look at these mouse proteins, we never imagined that we could see so clearly how evolution has sculpted the mouse’s genome to meet its biological needs.”

Matt Ridley, author of ‘Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters’, said:

“Since the sensational discovery a few years ago that to all intents and purposes mice have the same genes as people, though they sometimes use different switches to operate them, it has become imperative to read the mouse genome.

“Because scientists can selectively switch off genes in mice, more will be learnt about human disease from the mouse genome than from the human genome. This is a big day for medical research.”

Robert Meadowcroft, Director of Policy, Research and Information at the Parkinson’s Disease Society, said:

“This is exciting news which opens up further possibilities in the field of Parkinson’s disease research. It could lead the way to a greater understanding of the causes and progression of Parkinson’s and eventually to improved diagnostics and drug treatments for the condition.

“Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain. Improved treatment and the search for a cure depend crucially on a better understanding of the processes of the disease. Research like this is therefore vital in the search for a cure, effective treatments and the prevention of this extremely distressing disease.”

Professor Tom Baldwin, Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said:

“Hundreds of thousands of mice are killed every year in the course of medical and biological research. No doubt, knowledge of the mouse genome will help scientists design more effective mouse models for human disease and disorder. But will it also help to reduce the number of mice that are killed? Let us hope so.”

Crispin Kirkman, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association, said:

“Fifty per cent of the world’s diseases still have no cure. Today’s announcement marks a significant step in allowing scientists to accelerate their research efforts which will lead in time to new patient medicines and cures.”

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