With a 95 percent genomic similarity to humans, mice have long been used to learn about the genetic causes of human disease. Genetic mapping, is a long and difficult road, made more challenging by the 5% difference between the humans and lab mice.
A new mice population will offer 1,000 genetic strains within a fixed genotype — the composite of the entire genetic makeup of an organism. This is a marked improvement on the previously existing 450 genetic strains of lab mice with varying genotypes, making Prof. Iraqi’s new strain ideal for genetic mapping. And with these mice, researchers will be able to identify a gene associated with a particular disease within two to three years instead of the 10 to 15 years it takes now, says Prof. Iraqi.
Prof. Iraqi has already used the new mouse population to identify a group of genes that are crucial to susceptibility to infection when exposed to Aspergillus fumigatus, a soil fungus that causes respiratory infections in humans. Getting to this point took only a year — compared to the 15 years it might have taken using standard lab mice
There are currently genetic mapping projects for a variety of diseases, including diabetes, various types of cancers, dental infections, bacterial infections, and fungal infections — all making use of these genetically enriched mice.