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Reno Gazette: Of mice and molecular medicine

Dx Revision Watch

Suzy Chapman Owner of Dx Revision Watch

Of mice and molecular medicine

By Lenita Powers lpowers@rgj.com July 11, 2010

When the University of Nevada, Reno's $77 million Center for Molecular Medicine opens in September, it will house 40,000 mice and state-of-the-art laboratories to conduct research into possible cures for muscular dystrophy, breast cancer, stroke, herpes and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other illnesses.

The 116,500-square-feet structure will allow the university to expand its research and generate more federal grants, said Thomas Kozel, a professor of microbiology and immunology and the center's project manager for the School of Medicine.

"When we first started planning this facility six or seven years ago, the basic problem was space," he said. "We were absolutely built out as far as what we could do in research. It will expand our ability to work on multiple projects at the same time.

It also expands our containment facilities and our ability to work with human samples."

A significant part of the cost of the new center was the construction of a vivarium, a building to house mice, Kozel said.

"But not just any mice," he said. "They will be transgenic mice. We can genetically alter these mice, for example, to knock out a gene for a particular protein of choice or to knock in a gene, and then we can see how that particular protein functions."

The transgenic mice are inbred strains that scientists can use to put in or remove genes to recreate any of the genetic diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, for research, he said.

The new center also will allow faculty to use the team concept now favored at modern medical research facilities, Kozel said.

"Laboratory design has changed, not just here but around the world," he said. "The buildings they are building now are built for research teams, so in this new building there will be larger teams of four or five faculty and a group of 30 investigators who will work together."

"Rather than departmentalizing, we will work together and share resources, share thoughts, share students and share technicians," Kozel said. "When it is fully populated, I anticipate we will have from 25 to 35 faculty and each of those faculty will lead a research team of five to eight individuals so you will have around 150 to 200 people."

University President Milt Glick said most of those positions will be funded by research grants.

Most of money to build the center -- about $60 million -- came from indirect costs from grants awarded to UNR faculty, Glick said.

"It came from our faculty, competing at the top of their game for these grants," he said. "Our sponsored research and public service bring in about $100 million a year, which is about half of all the sponsored research that goes on in Nevada."

And with the promise of a state-of-the-art facility and expanded research, the center is expected to attract new scientists to the campus who will bring their projects and grants with them, Glick said.

UNR scientists will be working at times with researchers from the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease, which will be housed in the center.

Through their foundation, Harvey and Annette Whittemore of Reno pledged $5 million toward the construction of the center.

The Whittemore Peterson Institute has laboratory space and conducts research at UNR but would move into the top two floors of the new center's east wing and begin providing clinical care to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and fribromyalgia, a condition characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened and painful response to pressure that affects mostly women.

Annette Whittemore, founder and president of the institute, said its mission is to develop a knowledge base that will lead to diagnostics and the effective treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and similar neuro-immune diseases.

Last year, Whittemore Peterson institute researchers discovered a new infectious human retrovirus, XMRV, that may cause or at least contribute to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

"Our vision is that, as we show the science that's already there, we could look for additional scientific knowledge on the campus," she said.

"The partnership and the integration has been phenomenal, and we think we can bring back to the university knowledge and equipment," Whittemore said. "We also hope we can bring new researchers and medical expertise so we can help educate (UNR's) medical students and provide a home for them to come through, and that they can in turn help our patients as well."


Senior Member
Hopefully they won't get us confused with the mice, and stick us in the wheel


Senior Member
Do mice have xmrv ? or did i read they were just carriers of the virus?

No they don't.

John Coffin has tested about 150, I forget the word, so I will say 'types' of mice. XMRV is not there, but it forms a branch from the retroviruses they do have, which are called MuLV's.

That is why, if it was contamination, it cannot come from mice, it could only have come from humans. If the WPI got their test samples from Silverman and his prostate cancer studies, this is where a possible contamination could have come from, but again the strain found in CFS is not the same as prostate cancer. Also, antibodies cannot be found in a contaminant.

I am pretty sure I'm right saying all of this.

Angela Kennedy

Senior Member
Essex, UK
Oh great, lets experiment on mice to bring even more confusion into the science of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome!

Actually - what am I saying? - it's been done before. They've use rodents (mice mainly) to test psychogenic explanations such as 'stress' for ill health (inducing ulcers by Heliobacter pylori infection), and purport to have produced a 'mouse model' of 'CFS' by making rodents swim to exhaustion, time and again.

Ethical problems discarded for the sake of this argument (though aren't you all even a little bit curious how 'psycho-social' stress is induced in the mouse?), there are various problems likely to slow up useful research into 'CFS' if anything with using mice, or other non-human animals: they can't even cope with establishing useful cohorts of 'CFS' in the human guinea pig!