Lab Canada

International collaboration to develop new mouse models for insight into human disease

Winnipeg, MB – Canadian scientists, funders and international partners in Europe and the US have officially announced their agreement to work together on the International Knockout Mouse Project.

The goal of the project is to build a comprehensive and publicly available resource of mutations in the mouse genome. Mice and humans share 99% of their genetic make up and studying mice with specific genes knocked out will provide insight into human biology and disease.

Dr Geoff Hicks, director of the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology (MICB), a joint institute of the University of Manitoba and CancerCare Manitoba, is co-leading the North American Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Project (NorCOMM), the Canadian component of the International Knockout Mouse Project.

NorCOMM is supported by Genome Prairie with funding of $13.5 million from Genome Canada and other partners. Dr Hicks and his team will work with other scientists from around the world to create knockout mice lines for each of the approximately 20,000 mouse genes.

Over 5,000 human diseases have been shown to have a genetic determinant and mouse models provide a powerful research tool to further the understanding of human disease, he explains. The collaboration brings together significant resources, ensures efforts are coordinated on an international level and focuses world-wide expertise on achieving our goals. This resource will be fully available to other scientists in medical research to ensure that it can be used without delay to explore, understand and accelerate treatments.

Disrupting the function in each of the approximately 20,000 genes in the mouse genome allows researchers to determine the role of each gene in physiology and development thereby providing powerful tools to explore the function of genes in the modeling of human disease.

The International Knockout Mouse Project brings the NorCOMM project together with the European Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Program (EUCOMM) funded by the European Commission and the Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP) funded by the US National Institutes of Health. The international partners have established a common principle of making data and resources rapidly and openly available to researchers around the world and to coordinating efforts and sharing information to maximize the efficiency of this research.

Canadian co-funding partners include the provinces of Manitoba and Alberta, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and Cryolab.