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Specially-bred mice help target an annual outbreak: the flu
Date:2/21/2012

n of humans, they may be the key to understanding some of today's most common, and most complex, diseases. In this case, the specially bred mice were used to study the varying immune response to the annual influenza outbreak.

In this research project, the scientists studied 44 groups of flu-infected mice that varied genetically. Due to this variation, the mouse reaction to influenza varied greatly, just as it does in the human population. The researchers then noted genetic differences that may have caused the variety of disease responses. Their ongoing work is to more clearly identify which genes cause these differences.

"Each year, annual influenza epidemics result in about 3 million to 5 million cases of severe illness," explained Shannon McWeeney, Ph.D., an associate professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics and head of the Division of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at OHSU. "We see a broad spectrum of response to influenza infection ranging from patients with minor symptoms to the estimated 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide."

"We want to understand what genetic factors influence this wide-ranging response. More importantly, with a better understanding of the genetic influence of disease response, we believe we can help in the development of better, safer vaccines that can target the most vulnerable population: the sick, elderly and young. We also want to determine if the genetic factors that impact flu response also play a role in the varying responses to other diseases. If so, this new research method could have a much broader impact," McWeeney said.


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Contact: Jim Newman
newmanj@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
Source:Eurekalert

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