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Mouse Genome Project Begins

A University of Oklahoma researcher who has worked to unlock the mysteries of human genetics will turn his focus to mice for now, thanks to a $12 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Bruce Roe's Advanced Center for Genome Technology will join nine other research centers to form the Mouse Genome Sequencing Network. The goal is to determine the mouse's entire genetic structure by 2005.

"Because mice and humans share many of the same fundamental biological and behavioral processes, this animal is one of the most significant laboratory models for human disease," National Institutes of Health Director Harold Varmus said.

"Knowing the genetic makeup of the mouse, and being able to compare it to the DNA of humans and other animal species, will greatly expedite many avenues of research," he said.

Roe, the University of Oklahoma's George Lynn Cross Research Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, played a key role in deciphering the first human chromosome.

"Genes of immediate interest are genes involved in various forms of cancer, such as leukemia and brain cancer as well as mental retardation and schizophrenia," he said.

By determining whether those genes are present in mice, researchers can isolate them in the lab and learn more about how they work, Roe said.

His lab is part of the Human Genome Project. Roe and his staff of more than 80 people have completed one-third of the genetic sequencing required to determine the "genome" or makeup of the human chromosome 22.

Roe's lab will continue to work on chromosome 22, but most of its focus will now shift to mice.

"I'm very excited that we're getting funding and we're going to continue," he said. "It's one of the major scientific projects of the century, or ever."