Genetics Research Facility to House Research Mice

By Carter, Ray | THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 12, 2002 | Go to article overview

Genetics Research Facility to House Research Mice


Carter, Ray, THE JOURNAL RECORD


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.
On 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 unique."
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 region.
"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.
The $15 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 period.
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.
Safety first
Funded in 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 the rack.
"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 protection."
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 environment. …

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