An international consortium of scientists has completed a draft sequence of the genome of the rhesus macaque, a species of non-human primate that is widely used for creating models of human diseases and infections. The study paves the way for researchers to watch disease progression at the genetic level in macaques, a close relative of humans. The findings, which appear in the April 13 issue of Science, will also teach us more about how humans and other primates evolved into distinct species.
The rhesus macaque genome is the product of a deliberate effort by scientists to bring macaque biology research into the 21st century. Several years ago, University of Washington microbiologist Dr. Michael Katze and his colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Rogers, a researcher at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas, publicly called for the sequencing project and hosted a research symposium in Seattle to discuss how to improve the understanding of macaque biology. Unlocking the rhesus macaque genome, they argued, would give researchers more powerful tools in understanding the processes of disease and infection in an animal model that is much more closely related to humans than other disease-model organisms, like mice.
"This increases dramatically the sorts of studies that we'll be able to do," explained Katze, a professor of microbiology at the UW and researcher in the Washington National Primate Research Center's Functional Genomics and Infectious Disease division. He also assisted in the sequencing project. "This will allow us to analyze in a genetic microarray what's going on at the genetic level in tissue affected by disease. For the first time, you'll be able to do everything in non-human primates that you can only do in humans and mice now."
The genome sequence will also help scientists conduct functional genomics research, in which they monitor how much particular genes are activated, or expressed, during the progres
Contact: Justin Reedy
University of Washington