Collaborative Cross to provide powerful resource for mouse model researchers worldwide

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sept. 22, 2005 -- A thousand new strains of mice being bred at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as part of an international effort will provide researchers with a powerful resource for studying human disease.

The project, dubbed the Collaborative Cross, has officially begun with a $1.25 million grant over five years from the Ellison Medical Foundation. When completed in about seven years, researchers worldwide will be able to fully exploit the genetic power of the mouse. Each of the estimated 1,000 strains derived from the carefully selected original eight breeds represents a resource that can be used repeatedly to accumulate data.

"Ultimately, this effort will allow us to do a much better job of modeling human populations and diseases because we will have 1,000 lines of mice that carry the kinds of genetic diversity representative of people," said Dabney Johnson, a genetics researcher in ORNL's Life Sciences Division. Johnson headed a team that wrote the proposal to the Ellison Medical Foundation.

At the heart of the project is the new $14 million Laboratory for Comparative Functional Genomics at the Department of Energy's ORNL. The pathogen-free 36,000-square-foot facility completed in 2004 boasts accommodations for 80,000 mice, cryogenic storage and other state-of-the-art features. It is at this designated DOE user facility that the breeding of the eight strains taken from around the world will be performed to initiate up to 1,500 strains of mice. Of those, researchers expect about 1,000 strains to be viable as inbreeding proceeds.

Without DOE's stewardship of the new mouse facility, the project would not be possible, said Johnson, who noted that DOE is contributing not only the space within the facility but also the technical capabilities that will allow the work to be performed.

The project, which will occupy about half of the new ORNL mouse house's capacity, is a perfect fit for ORNL, according to Johnson.

Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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