At first glance, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation's
newest facility - the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Genetics
Research - appears both inspiring and ... well, over the top.
the one hand, the center may give birth to cures for diseases that
have plagued mankind since the dawn of history.
On the other
hand, the facility is - by the admission of OMRF officials -
essentially a $15 million "state-of-the-art mouse facility," a
really, really expensive home for rodents.
But Brian E. Gordon,
director of comparative medicine at the foundation, said those mice
could be the key to unlocking numerous cures.
"These animals are
not field mice, they're not house mice, they're not pet store mice,"
Gordon said. "These animals are specially designed research animals
that in a lot of cases have been developed over a long period of
years by investigators. And in many cases they are
Gordon, who will serve as director of the Donald W.
Reynolds Center for Genetics Research after its dedication on June
24, said genetically engineered mice are "invaluable" to research
efforts and every penny spent on the center will be worth it if the
research pays off with new medical treatments.
"That is the
reason that we go to such extremes, because these animals are
precious," he said. "They're sometimes irreplaceable, extremely
valuable, and critical for these labs to go on. In many cases, they
offer the chance to go in and cure diseases."
Gordon said the
genetics center is unique in Oklahoma and one of the best in the
"These facilities are being built in a number of places
across the United States, but most of them are being built either on
the East or the West Coast - places like Boston and Seattle and
Washington, D.C.," he said.
To find a comparable facility, you
would have to travel to Dallas, Houston or Kansas City.
million price tag for the construction of the new facility and the
renovation of other labs at OMRF isn't the only big number that
grabs viewers' immediate attention. Once the facility is complete
and opens this summer, Gordon said the foundation will be home to
between 20,000 and 30,000 mice at any given time at both the new
genetics facility and other labs on the foundation's campus. In a
given year, due to constant churn, Gordon said the OMRF may see as
many as 100,000 mice come through during any 12-month
Virtually every area of biomedical research requires
genetically engineered animals. Mice are among the most common
research subjects, since they have a counterpart for 97 out of every
100 genes in a human.
The new genetics center will eventually be
the operating base for between 60 and 70 investigators. It will ship
and receive mice all over the world.
part by a $5 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation,
the center will encompass 13,000 square feet in new space built atop
the existing William H. Bell building, which was renovated as part
of the project.
The heart of the genetics center is a series of
animal holding rooms, where researchers will have control of every
facet of their test subjects' lives. The light cycle of each room is
strictly controlled to impact animal behavior (since reproductive
cycles are impacted by light) and each room contains "ventilated
cage rack systems" that hold dozens of mouse cages.
"It's like a
mini-apartment complex," Gordon said.
Each cage is individually
ventilated to prevent disease from spreading throughout all cages on
"We used to keep animals in cages and the tops were
open, on shelves, that type of thing," Gordon said. "If you had a
disease, it went everywhere. So this provides the ultimate
The racks cost $25,000 apiece and hold 144 cages,
with each cage holding anywhere from one to five mice each. OMRF
will have 60 racks in the genetics center.
The facility is
designed so researchers will have complete control of the