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Dis Model Mech. 2008 Jul-Aug;1(1):56-66. doi: 10.1242/dmm.000232.

The expanding role of mouse genetics for understanding human biology and disease.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Avenue, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


It has taken about 100 years since the mouse first captured our imagination as an intriguing animal for it to become the premier genetic model organism. An expanding repertoire of genetic technology, together with sequencing of the genome and biological conservation, place the mouse at the foremost position as a model to decipher mechanisms underlying biological and disease processes. The combined approaches of embryonic stem cell-based technologies, chemical and insertional mutagenesis have enabled the systematic interrogation of the mouse genome with the aim of creating, for the first time, a library of mutants in which every gene is disrupted. The hope is that phenotyping the mutants will reveal novel and interesting phenotypes that correlate with genes, to define the first functional map of a mammalian genome. This new milestone will have a great impact on our understanding of mammalian biology, and could significantly change the future of medical diagnosis and therapeutic development, where databases can be queried in silico for potential drug targets or underlying genetic causes of illnesses. Emerging innovative genetic strategies, such as somatic genetics, modifier screens and humanized mice, in combination with whole-genome mutagenesis will dramatically broaden the utility of the mouse. More significantly, allowing genome-wide genetic interrogations in the laboratory, will liberate the creativity of individual investigators and transform the mouse as a model for making original discoveries and establishing novel paradigms for understanding human biology and disease.

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