Monday, November 02, 2009

Mice and Men

"The price tag on a mouse bred at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor runs anywhere from $11 to $300. The lower fee buys a basic, all-purpose mouse, fit for a variety of scientific experiments, while a bit more gets a custom rodent with a disease of the customer’s choice. The mice can be ordered online, in bulk, and packed up in temperature-controlled tractor trailers for delivery within days. While supplies last, take 25% off selected products. Just add shipping and handling.

All this may sound rather commercial for a nonprofit, world-renowned genetics research institution. But selling mice has been part of Jackson Lab’s mission ever since the 1929 stock market crash threatened its founding 80 years ago. Today, the lab houses and distributes more than 4,000 different strains of mice — ideal as a research model for their genetic similarity to humans — and is recognized worldwide for its diverse, reliable stock. It is not the only place to buy laboratory mice, but its rodents are indispensable to scientists across the globe researching how and why we get sick...

The research driving personalized medicine is happening both in-house at Jackson Lab and at the pharmaceutical companies and biotechs the lab supplies with its mice. The lab employs 218 researchers working to understand and better treat diseases including cancer, osteoporosis, AIDS, obesity and glaucoma. Last year, the lab distributed 2.5 million mice — which are genetically pure through inbreeding — to 16,000 investigators in 60 countries. Many of them couldn’t do similar testing otherwise, Woychik says. 'There are major pharmaceutical companies whose R&D efforts are dependent on the resources that we create here. We’re doing experiments in mice that will make it safer to bring a drug into clinical trials.'...

Jackson Lab also provides mice that can accept human tissue, allowing researchers to test the efficacy of new drugs on as human-like a subject as possible. Hospitals provide the lab with human tumors that can be inserted into the mice, furthering research into cancer drugs, as well treatments for illnesses including as obesity and diabetes. 'You’re one step closer to really studying the human disease in life, not in a petri dish,' Hewett says."

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