Rat survey may help identify human disease genes

A survey of genetic variation in laboratory rats which may help identify human disease genes is published this week in Nature Genetics.

A consortium of European laboratories, including Professor Dominique Gauguier at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, has published a survey of genetic variation in the laboratory rat.  This survey is based on 3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and represents a solid foundation for disease gene discovery in rats and important perspectives in translational medicine.

The laboratory rat is a major experimental system for modelling human disease, and is used in physiology, pharmacology, toxicology, nutrition, immunology, genetics and genomics.  The complete rat genome was sequenced in 2004 and has been shown to have many genetic similarities to the human genome.  The discovery of over 3 million SNPs in the rat genome and the characterization of genetic polymorphism for 20,000 of them provide crucial resources for identifying genes underlying complex traits relevant to human disorders.

This research is published in a special issue of Nature Genetics which celebrates the Chinese Year of the Rat, along with a community view on rat genetics and other papers reporting findings linking rat genomic studies to human genetics.  This demonstrates the importance of rat genetic and genomic research in modern biomedical genetics.

This work was funded by the European Commission and the Wellcome Functional Genomic grant for Cardiovascular Functional Genomics.