An international consortium of researchers report today in Nature that they have knocked out almost 40 per cent of the genes in the mouse genome. The completed resource will power studies of gene activity in models of human disease.
The results are founded on a novel, efficient production line that is able to target each specific gene in turn. The consortium has cracked all the challenges of generating mutations of each gene in mouse embryonic stem cells, and has already knocked out 9,000 genes in the mouse genome as part of an international effort to knockout all 21,000. This developing resource will be essential in our understanding of the role of genes in all mammals - including humans.
The cells generated by this approach will allow researchers to ask and answer questions about the roles of genes at the scale of the whole mouse and human genome. The gold-standard method to uncover that role is to mutate a gene in mouse embryonic stem cells: the biochemical and developmental behaviour of the mutated cells can be studied in test tubes or in mice. Until this production system was developed, conducting gold-standard research on this scale was impossible.
The problem to be overcome was: how do you scale this approach to tackle the whole mouse genome?
"We have pioneered novel methods that enable us to deliver the most complex and accurate high-throughput functional genomics platform yet attempted," says Dr Bill Skarnes, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute researcher and lead author of the study. "We believe that our work raises the standards of achievement and expectation for genome-scale programmes.
"It is an investment for the future: the genome-engineering technologies developed here for the mouse will drive future model systems, including work on human stem cells."
Genomics was transformed in the 1990s from individual-based research to large-scale commodity resources: an equivalent success was needed fo
|Contact: Don Powell|
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute