Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Giants in the Field of Research

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Giants in the Field of Research

Article excerpt

ALL RIGHT, folks, let's hear it for the Mighty Mutant Mouse, unsung superhero of the science world, the magnificent (though chinless) mammal that made possible the stirring announcement recently that a "thin" hormone has been discovered in mice that may, when injected into humans, cause the quick disappearance of excess body fat.

Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, molecular geneticist at the Howard Hughes Institute at Rockefeller University in New York, worked nearly a decade to find and isolate the hormone in his ob (for obese) lab mice, and of course he got all the public credit: newspaper interviews, TV appearances on top-rated shows, probably a few extra dollars in his paycheck.

And if he said he couldn't have done it alone, most would assume he meant his human colleagues.

Insiders would know he meant mice, the creatures of choice for the vast majority of biomedical researchers.

In fact, descendants of Mus musculus ," the common house mouse, have easily become the most valuable, efficient and practical animal models in biomedical research, capable of leading to incredible discoveries.

"We are at the beginning of a genetics revolution, which is accelerating the pace of discovery. In the next 10 years, we will learn more about how our bodies work and about human disease than we have in all of previous history - all courtesy of the mouse," says Dr. Kenneth Paigen, director of the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The Jackson Laboratory is the world's foremost institution for studying mouse models of human disease, and the country's largest repository of mutant mice shipped around the world for use in medical research.

Friedman's ob mice were from the Jackson Laboratory - the original born there more than 20 years ago.

The strain was kept alive and pure by mating dozens of successive generations of brothers and sisters descended from the original, so that today's mice, such as the ones on which Friedman worked, are virtually identical genetic carbon copies of one another.

In 1991, the usually sedate Harvard Health Letter waxed rhapsodic about the rodents. …

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