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Scientists compare rat genome with human, mouse

BETHESDA, Md., Wed., March 31, 2004 An international research team, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced it has completed a high-quality, draft sequence of the genome of the laboratory rat, and has used that data to explore how the rat's genetic blueprint stacks up against those of mice and humans.

In a paper published in the April 1 issue of the journal Nature, the Rat Genome Sequencing Project Consortium describes its efforts to produce and analyze a draft sequence of the Brown Norway strain of the laboratory rat (Rattus norvegicus). The project, led by the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, was primarily funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), $58.5 million, and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), $60 million.

"This is an investment that is destined to yield major payoffs in the fight against human disease," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "For nearly 200 years, the laboratory rat has played a valuable role in efforts to understand human biology and to develop new and better drugs. Now, armed with this sequencing data, a new generation of researchers will be able to greatly improve the utility of rat models and thereby improve human health."

Areas in which rat models have already helped to advance medical research include: cardiovascular diseases (hypertension); psychiatric disorders (studies of behavioral intervention and addiction); neural regeneration; diabetes; surgery; transplantation; autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis); cancer; wound and bone healing; and space motion sickness. In drug development, the rat is routinely employed to demonstrate therapeutic efficacy and assess toxicity of drug compounds prior to human clinical trials. The genome sequence will facilitate all of these studies, as well as help researchers better pinpoint the crucial areas of biological difference between rats and
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
31-Mar-2004


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