London, Dec. 4 (Reuters): It’s small and furry and doesn’t look anything like humans but the genetic blueprint of the mouse published today shows there isn’t much difference between mice and men.
Both have about 30,000 genes and share the bulk of them, while 90 per cent of genes linked to diseases in humans are similar to those in mice.
“We share 99 per cent of our genes with mice, and we even have the genes that could make a tail,” said Dr Jane Rogers, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England.
Rogers and a consortium of scientists around the world collaborated on the genome, or complete list of coded instructions to make a mouse, which is published in the science journal Nature.
It is regarded as the most important scientific breakthrough since the sequencing of the human genome and the key to understanding human genes and how they contribute to illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, the world’s biggest killers.
By comparing the two genomes, researchers have already identified 1,200 new human genes and 9,000 new mouse genes. There are only 300 genes unique to either organism, proving that the mouse is the ideal model to study human diseases and to test new treatments.
“It (the mouse genome) is considered a phrasebook for understanding the human genome,” Rogers told a news conference. “The mouse is the major laboratory species for understanding the biology of mammals. It has an enormous wealth of genetic information.”
Mice share cell and organ systems compatible to our own and they breed very quickly, so millions of the tiny rodents are used in laboratories around the world to study how genes work, which could form the basis of new diagnostic tests and treatments.