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Conversation with Lluis Montoliu. Part 2

Lluís Montoliu, Research Scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology, of the Spanish Research Council, in Madrid, Spain.
In this case you are talking on knock-out animals meaning that you take away a gene or a part of the gene. Are there other ways to manipulate genomes? Basically there are different methods that we have learned over the years. We started by adding genes in which sense that we can ask the same question. We have, let’s imagine, a gene which we assume it’s going to be expressed in muscle cells, and this gene now we put it to work in the liver. And now we can ask what is wrong, what’s being distorted by putting a gene in a different organ. So this is addition of genes, this is what we call transgenic mice.
By doing this type of experiments we can learn a certain amount of information, but definitely, we learn a lot more information not by adding genes but by removing genes, because upon removing genes, we can see how the system reorganizes itself when we are deleting specifically one gene, and leaving the rest of the genome intact. Again, this is something that has been launched since 10-15 years, there’s an international consortium that its mandate is to prepare a library of mouse mutants, each one of this mouse mutants carrying a mutation in each one of the 20.000 genes that we have, and the mice have.
So for each one of this mouse mutants, what we can do is, we can bring them into what we call a mouse clinic, which is similar to a hospital, in which the mouse that has been mutated we can ask whether there is anything wrong regarding the physiology; regarding the behavior; regarding the locomotion; regarding the conductual clues… and we can annotate all this information, and we can share this information. And by adding all this knowledge, we can sort of associate each and every of the genes of the mouse genome with a function, with a role, and we can infer what would be the possible role in the human genome as well.

Lluís Montoliu, research scientist at the National Centre for Biotechnology of the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid, Spain.

He is interested in understanding how the mammalian genome works and is trying to identify the elements that regulate the expression of genes in time, space and level in order to improve the design of gene-transfer strategies used in animal transgenesis and gene therapy.

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