A paper by Zan et al. in the June issue of Nature Biotechnology describes the first ever “knockout” lab rats, allowing researchers to study the effect of specific gene defects on rat physiology.
Mice in which the function of genes has been ‘knocked out’ by mutagenesis have proven indispensable for understanding the impact of gene function on physiology. Typically, mouse knockouts are made from genetically altered embryonic stem cells. But as scientists have not been able to isolate embryonic stem cells from rats, Zan et al. took a different approach. By designing a test that rapidly identifies rare rats that contain a mutation in a gene of interest induced by a chemical, Zan et al. succeeded in producing rats carrying knockouts of two genes associated with breast cancer, Brca1 and Brca2.
The achievement is particularly significant because of the lab rat’s importance as a model of many other human diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and neurological disorders. The ability to make knockout rats will aid scientists working to unravel the genetic roots of these disorders.
Michael N. Gould
Department of Oncology
University of Wisconsin
Tel: +1 608 262 2177
Also available online.
(C) Nature Biotechnology press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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