Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Straight talk with… Steve Brown

nm1111-1332-I1.jpgFor decades, the study of gene function has relied heavily on the creation of ‘knockout’ mice, bioengineered to lack certain genes. But making a rodent without a specific gene is a chore—so much so that doctoral students sometimes dedicate their entire PhD work to generating a single mouse strain. The International Knockout Mouse Consortium (IKMC), launched in 2006, plans to change all that. The consortium, involving scientists from 33 research centers in nine countries, is creating a library of every gene knockout in embryonic stem cell lines, which can be used to produce mouse strains.

In June, the group passed 10,000 embryonic stem cell lines generated in a targeted fashion, and, as they approach their goal of around 21,000 mouse gene knockouts, the project is moving onto its next step: phenotypes. The offshoot collaboration, the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC), plans to document disease-related phenotypes for each generated mouse strain including metabolic, neurological and behavioral data. The effort received support on 29 September, when the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded $110 million to three US centers over five years to phenotype 833 strains each. Hannah Waters spoke with Steve Brown, chairman of the IMPC and director of the UK Medical Research Council’s Mammalian Genetics Unit in Harwell to learn more about the plans for the project.

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