Nation lifts ban on GM mice from PRC

TREATMENT::Allowing exchanges of genetically modified mice with China would expand Taiwan’s access to international germplasm banks and cut research expenses

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 - Page 4

The National Laboratory Animal Center (NLAC) yesterday said its Rodent Model Resource Center had completed the last link connecting it with the global society on genetically engineered mice research with the signing of an agreement allowing the import of such mice from China.

Given the rapid progress in biomedical research, up to 70 percent of animal experiments are now conducted using laboratory mice, said the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL), a non-profit institute comprising 11 national laboratories, including the NLAC.

An increasing number of genetically modified mice are used to link laboratory research with clinical application, as well as to serve as an important resource for connecting research results with the industry, it said.

The signing of the strategic agreement for bilateral cooperation with Nanjing University’s Model Animal Research Center in China marked the completion of the last missing link, NLAC director Yu Chun-Keung (余俊強) said.

While Taiwan had access to germplasm banks in the US, Australia, Japan and European countries, imports from China were previously blocked, Yu said.

NARL director Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said the Rodent Model Resource Center has developed more than a hundred strains of genetically engineered mice, and joining international alliances has given Taiwan access to more than 23,000 strains from 22 international germplasm banks.

NLAC associate researcher Chin Hsian-jean (秦咸靜) said genetically modified mice are often used for decoding and developing treatment for complicated genetically inherited diseases, such as asthma, tumors, metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, as well as monogenetic diseases, such as polycystic kidney and Parkinson’s disease.

“While traditional methods of mice breeding may take up to about 15 years to find a DNA fragment with 10 potential carcinogenic genes, using genetically engineered mice for research can shorten the time to about only a few months to a few years,” Chin said.

By saving time and energy on breeding the strain of mice needed for research, researchers can focus on genetic modifications, impact of environmental changes, monitoring the development of diseases and developing target therapy, she said.

The cryopreservation of mice embryos — preserving embryos at sub-zero temperatures — would also help germplasm banks save on research expenses, Chin said.

It is estimated that this would help the center save about NT$35 million on research expenses from maintaining live mouse colonies, as well as spare the lives of about 20,000 mice each year and facility space for about 4,000 cages, she added.