Innovation Through Effective Management: Overseeing Mouse Models with the Help of ELNs
The use of mice in biomedical and basic research has revolutionized modern biology, powerfully impacting our understanding of the brain, cardiovascular function, and a myriad of other scientific pursuits that would have otherwise remained impenetrable. As The Jackson Lab elaborates, “The physiology shared between mice and humans makes the mouse ideal for modeling complex human diseases and for drug efficacy testing. Mice provide effective models for diseases and conditions such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, glaucoma, neurological and neuromuscular disorders, and cancer, as well as many rare diseases.” Once a mouse model for a particular disease has been created, biomedical researchers and other scientists have been able to use these animals to test their many hypotheses and potential therapeutic interventions.
Ultimately, the power of mouse models lies in our intricate understanding of both mouse genetics and scientists’ abilities to genetically manipulate their genomes via homologous recombination techniques and innovative new technology, such as CRISPR-Cas9, in order to determine the function of unknown genes. The value of inbred strains and strain panels have also limited the number of mice needed to detect genetic variants that could affect phenotypic traits, a process that would have otherwise required thousands of animals. Together, it is difficult to overstate the ways in which mouse models have transformed modern science and also given researchers enough insight to diversify and improve our translational medicine efforts.
All is not made from “sugar and spice and everything nice” in the world of mouse genetics and breeding
Though the use of mouse models has clearly improved modern biology, especially biomedical research, managing a mouse colony is not without its difficulties. There are at least 20 inbred mouse strains as well as a number of outbred, hybrid and mutant strains. However, the selection of a specific strain of mice is not trivial. For example, certain mouse strains are easier to genetically manipulate than others (some cannot be manipulated at all). Additionally, in behavior studies, some strains are known to be more aggressive (or likewise more “depressed”) than other strains of mice, which can mask a researcher’s phenotype or the function of a gene that has either been removed or mutated for analysis. Indeed, in 2009, Nature Neuroscience published an article titled, “Troublesome variability in mouse models” in which the editors “urge greater awareness of the potential genetic and environmental confounds involved in designing and interpreting studies with mice, and encourage the accurate reporting of the study’s design” in order to combat these problems.
Fundamentally, the mouse strain a researcher chooses to work with will then depend on his or her goals as well as the availability of a specific line within a given institution. As collaborative efforts increase, researchers are also known to send their various strains and mouse models to investigators across the world, who must either re-derive the strain or continue a breeding plan. Altogether, the many strains and models within a laboratory (not to speak of between laboratories) can become complex and difficult to keep track of. For example, the Research Animal Resources Center (RARC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison warns its investigators that even mouse breeding and factors such as reproductive lifespan, estrus cycles and gestation periods can vary between strains. Thus, the RARC encourages the creation of a mouse breeding record system in order to encourage proper mouse colony management.
ELNs for mouse models and colony management
Electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) are powerful tools that enable researchers to effectively plan, design, execute and process their data on computers. Going beyond paper laboratory notebooks, ELNs enable their users to keep track of important information such as specific project names, dates when experiments were started and/or completed as well as other important information, images and texts. This information can then be made available to specific individuals and collaborators who can add their own contributions. Altogether, the use of ELNs is a powerful means of ensuring a proper workflow.
Unsurprisingly then, ELNs could be used to improve the generation of mouse models and subsequent mouse breeding record systems. In generating a mutant strain for example, mice must be paired at specific ages and their offspring genotyped. ELNs provide a through means to keep track of each breeder, recording information about when the mice were paired, separated; when pups were born as well as the date the pops were then weaned. This information is important for the researcher who will then decide if he has enough animals to work with or should order more mice, for example. Keeping track of the abovementioned factors also allows researchers to keep track of the animals that have been genotyped as well as any upcoming management activities that must be taken into account. By identifying mice that have not produced litters in weeks, researchers can also decide when to replace breeders in order to ensure that experiments do not become “stuck” at this stage. Altogether, the use of ELNs for colony management is hugely beneficial to the scientists, principle investigators, technicians and collaborators who rely on these mice for scientific conclusions.
We have developed a leading ELN used by researchers in a variety of industries and fields to increase their organization and streamline a variety of laboratory practices and workplace flow. To determine how the BIOVIA Notebook can assist you in the development of mouse models, colony management or your own specific needs, please visit our website today.