LOS ANGELES (May 18, 1999) - Scientists studying virtually any human genetic disease or trait can now quickly locate known matching genes in the mouse by using a color-coded chromosome mapping system devised by a team led by Julie R. Korenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Cedars-Sinai Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Pediatrics.
The dramatic finding, featured on the cover of the May 1999 issue of the scientific journal Genome Research, has profound implications for the study of human illnesses and the hunt for effective treatments and cures. As an example, Dr. Korenberg's own research into Down Syndrome will be greatly speeded by her ability to study the effects of potential therapies in mice proven to have an analogous chromosomal abnormality to one seen in humans.
In the past, creating and identifying a mouse with three copies of Chromosome 16 -- a mistake that produces traits comparable to those seen in human Down Syndrome -- could take months and countless trial-and-error attempts.
"Now it's so clear," she said, describing three bright spots in every nucleus of a mouse's cells. Indeed, the error can even be seen in embryonic mouse cells, holding the promise of developing cures that could one day be carried out in fetuses with Down Syndrome so that babies would be born without the disease.
"We are quite excited," said Dr. Korenberg. "These are keys to the secrets of how humans see, hear, think, and how they become ill." Recent years have seen an "enormous national effort to understand what humans have in common with mice," she explained.
In today's renaissance of human genetics, as more and more genetic explanations have been found for human disease and behavior, the potential of applying that knowledge to a workable animal model -- the mouse -- has never been more critical.
But the mouse, with its 40 chromosomes and 3,000 megabases of genes, has eluded easy study.