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Fake Rats, Real Science

The Medical College of Wisconsin won a $13 million, five-year NIH grant to build a computer model of a rat, report the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher. Humans and rats share about 90 percent of their genes, including many disease genes, making the rat a useful experimental animal model. "And yet, familiar as the rat is to modern science, little exists to show the complex interplay of genes, proteins, anatomy, organ systems and environmental factors," Johnson and Gallagher say. Enter the "virtual rat" model, which the researchers hope will allow them to simulate, among other things, the animal's various biological systems. The fake rats won't replace the real things, but they will allow researchers to better design their experiments, saving time, money, and rats. Jay Bayne, executive director of the Milwaukee Institute, tells Johnson and Gallagher that this project will help scientists build experiments the way Boeing builds airplanes with computer modeling before manufacturing begins. The model will be constructed based on what's already known about the rat, but also based on observations of different strains of rats, including different kinds of knock-out rats, the reporters write.

The Scan

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.

Team Presents Cattle Genotype-Tissue Expression Atlas

Using RNA sequences representing thousands of cattle samples, researchers looked at relationships between cattle genotype and tissue expression in Nature Genetics.

Researchers Map Recombination in Khoe-San Population

With whole-genome sequences for dozens of individuals from the Nama population, researchers saw in Genome Biology fine-scale recombination patterns that clustered outside of other populations.

Myotonic Dystrophy Repeat Detected in Family Genome Sequencing Analysis

While sequencing individuals from a multi-generation family, researchers identified a myotonic dystrophy type 2-related short tandem repeat in the European Journal of Human Genetics.