Made with the mouse in mind. That is one way to describe the William L. and Liane B. Russell Laboratory for Comparative and Functional Genomics. The $14 million Russell Lab is a new 36,000 ft2 building on ORNL's life and environmental sciences campus, where researchers will determine the biological functions of a subset of some 30,000 mouse genes, 85% of which are identical to human genes.
of Energy user facility was designed from the mouse's point of view," says
Dabney Johnson, leader of the Mammalian Genetics Group in ORNL's Life Sciences
The vivarium, which can house up to 60,000 mice, operates more efficiently and has lower utility and maintenance costs than the old Mouse House. The savings allows ORNL to stretch its research dollars farther, compete more effectively for funds from the National Institutes of Health, and attract new research talent.
Only designated researchers and animal care contractors can enter the Russell Lab. They must take "air showers" to remove debris from their clothing, put on special shoes, and "suit up" before they handle mice. Mouse food, bedding, cages, glassware, surgical equipment, and anything else brought into the facility must be spray-disinfected, fumigated, or sterilized in steam in an autoclave there.
Starting in the 1980s at the old Mouse House, ORNL biologists collected, froze, and catalogued embryos, sperm, and ovaries from more than 1400 mutant mouse strains, each of which has a unique set of genetic mutations. Many of these frozen embryos will be brought back to life in the Russell Lab.
Purchased, certified clean female mice introduced to the facility are being mated with vasectomized male mice. Trained staff members surgically implant thawed embryos in the oviducts of these surrogate mothers. By October 2004, some 75 strains of healthy mice should be thriving in DOE's major animal research center.
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