UNC set to take charge of U.S. energy department’s Collaborative Cross research project

Thursday, December 11, 2008 — The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in January begins moving its unique colony of 8,000 mice known as the Collaborative Cross to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Collaborative Cross, is a partnership among several national and international universities and research institutions. The project involves a randomized breeding of eight inbred mouse strains, and is designed to be the ultimate mouse reference population for scientists seeking to explore the genetic underpinnings of complex human traits. The project aims to create 1,000 strains of mice that feature the genetic diversity of the world population.

The fact that mice have DNA remarkably similar to that of humans, scientists around the world may learn more about possible causes of diabetes, sleep disorders, stress and pain, drug abuse and addiction, kidney disease and a number of other conditions that affect millions of people.

First proposed at the Edinburgh Meeting of the International Mouse Genome Conference in October 2001 and in the journal Mammalian Genome in 2002 (Threadgill, Hunter and Williams in 2002) the idea was motivated by the need for an integrative, affordable, retrievable, high-precision resource for the analysis of complex traits.

Over the last decade, as an increasing percentage of health-related research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, DOE funding in the biological sciences has been shifting toward a focus on systems biology research on plants and microbes aimed at addressing the nation’s challenges in energy, environment, and climate.

Funding from the state of North Carolina (the University Cancer Research Fund) and the federal government (National Institutes of Health) has enabled UNC to make substantial investment in research mouse capabilities. UNC and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, have been partners in the science behind the Collaborative Cross, a partnership involving several universities and research institutions. UNC will assume responsibility to complete the Cross, take over the mouse breeding stocks and make them available to the research community.

“Here at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we have the expertise, the facilities and generous federal and state funding to continue the exceptional work conducted on the Collaborative Cross by Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Vellena, Ph.D., associate professor of genetics at the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences and a member of the Cancer Genetics Program, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Contact de Villena at: 919-843-5403 or fernando@med.unc.edu.

School of Medicine contact: Les Lang, (919) 966-9366 or llang@med.unc.edu

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