Your daily selection of the latest science news!
According to Quanta Magazine (This article and its images were originally posted on Quanta Magazine October 1, 2018 at 11:05AM.)
No animals have done more to help science unravel the complex genetics of human disease than laboratory mice. Their usefulness as guides may rise further, however, with the announcement today in Nature Genetics that European researchers have completed draft genomic maps for 16 of the most commonly used strains of mouse. It’s a boon to researchers who until now have had to rely on a single reference genome for all mouse strains. The new work has already brought to light hundreds of genetic differences that affect a wide range of health conditions and fundamental processes in mice, and possibly humans as well.
“It’s long overdue,” said Evan Eichler, a professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, who was not involved in the study. “While we’ve known that there is genetic diversity among these strains for a long time, we haven’t had this level of resolution.”
A reference genome is a comprehensive catalog of all the genes of an organism, assembled in the correct order and grouped into chromosomes, forming a sort of map. Equipped with this map, researchers can investigate genetic variation within a population, or identify variants associated with particular traits or diseases.
But stating the value of such a map is much easier than making one. Imagine trying to construct a jigsaw puzzle from hundreds of awkwardly shaped pieces, all jumbled in a pile, without the aid of the picture on the front of the box to guide you. Now magnify that problem, with millions of pieces before you — each piece being a fragment of the full sequence of bases in the mouse genome. The understanding of how genes interact to build bodies and cause disease depends on getting it right. That’s the challenge of assembling a reference genome from scratch.
To see more posts like these; please subscribe to our newsletter. By entering a valid email, you’ll receive top trending reports delivered to your inbox.