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Conversation with Lluis Montoliu. Part 1

Lluís Montoliu, research scientist at the National Centre for Biotechnology of the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid, Spain.
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Within the chapter of the manipulation of the genome, we have today the interview with Lluís Montoliu, who is research scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology of the Spanish Research Council in Madrid, Spain. He is interested in understanding the functioning of the mammalian genome to know the regulatory elements for the expression of genes in space, in time, in quantity… in order to improve the design of gene transfer strategies used in animal transgenesis and in gene therapy. He develops experiments in vitro using transgenic animals, transgenic mice with constructions, in order to investigate the functional role of specific sequences.
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In addition, he’s laboratory has generated an analyzed new animal models for the study of diseases related to retina and the central nervous system. In this interview, we are going to talk on why transgenic mice are key for biomedical research and also on a new recent area of genetic manipulation that is offered by the technology called CRISPR systems, that is going to open many new possibilities. Lluís, why biomedical research needs transgenic animals and specifically transgenic mice? Because we would like to know our genome. We would like to understand the function of our genes, and of course it’s obvious that we will not be doing experiments with ourselves.
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And we could refer to animals to which we share a lot of genetic information. Mice and ourselves we are mammals, and because we are mammals, we are sharing a lot of the genes. And we are not only sharing the genes, we are sharing the function of the genes. So by understanding, and by doing experiments on these mouse genes, in a way, we are understanding how our genes are functioning. In mice, they are particularly suitable because they have been a tremendous genetic tool since the beginning of the past century.
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We know a lot of different mouse genetic background, which means mice with different mutations, with different variants that we can study, and further since the 1980s in the past century, we have methods that we can apply to inactivate specifically one gene, while leaving the rest of the genome intact. If we do this systematically, we can interrogate the mouse genome and we can ask “Is this gene required for the entire life of the animal?” “Is this gene required for the function of the eye?” “Or it’s required for the pancreas function?” “Or it’s required for the lung or the kidney function?”
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And by doing this systematically, and by accumulating this knowledge, we can infer what would be the role of the homologous genes in other species such as ourselves.
Lluís Montoliu, research scientist at the National Centre for Biotechnology of the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid, Spain.
He is interested in understanding the functioning of the mammalian genome, to know the regulatory elements of the expression of genes in space, time and quantity, in order to improve the design of gene transfer strategies used in animal transgenesis and in gene therapy.
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