CRG: Humans and Mice: Similar enough for studying disease and different enough to give us new clues about evolution

CRG: Humans and Mice: Similar enough for studying disease and different enough to give us new clues about evolution

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A group of international researchers has just discovered the keys to explaining why certain processes and systems in mice, like the immune system, metabolism and stress response, are so different to those in humans. The scientists have detailed the functional parts of the mouse genome and have compared them with those in humans. A whole set of data has come out of this – which is now to available to the scientific community – which will be significant for research into mammalian biology as well as the study of human illness mechanisms.

The comparison focuses on the genetic and biochemical processes regulating genome activity in humans and mice. The scientists have found that, in general, the systems for controlling genome activity in the two species are very alike, and have been preserved through time. However, they have also detected certain differences in the DNA, and patterns of gene expression that are not shared. “Finding these similarities and studying the aspects of mouse biology that may reflect human biology, allows us to approach the study of human illnesses in a better way”, affirms Bing Ren, one of the principal authors from the ENCODE Consortium and a lecturer in molecular and cellular medicine at the University of California – San Diego.

“The mouse is one of the most utilised models for studying human biology and we use it for creating models of human illnesses and testing new drugs and therapies. Our study goes a long way towards validating the usefulness of this animal model and provides enormous support for its use in human illnesses. We have found that there are many well-preserved cell processes in the two species, for example, in embryonic development. Understanding these similarities will allow us to carry out more accurate studies on human biology”, explains Roderic Guigó, one of the main researchers involved in the work and coordinator of the Bioinformatics and Genomics programme at the CRG.

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Articles published in the journal Nature on November 20, 2014:
A comparative encyclopedia of DNA elements in the mouse genome 
DOI: 10.1038/nature13992
Conservation of trans-acting circuitry during mammalian regulatory evolution
DOI: 10.1038/nature13972
Principles of regulatory information conservation between mouse and human
DOI: 10.1038/nature13985
Topologically associating domains are stable units of replication-timing regulation
DOI: 10.1038/nature13986