Mouse make up

Mice are genetically similar to humans

Published: Wednesday 15 January 2003

an international consortium of scientists has published nearly the entire genetic makeup of the mouse -- an accomplishment that could give new insights about human evolution. The working draft of the genome, which lays out the animal's startling similarity to humans, would also streamline the fundamental role that mice play in the study of human diseases.

The draft code, 2.5 billion dna letters long, comes nearly two years after the human genome was sequenced. Side-by-side comparisons of the two are already yielding new insights into the human genome, which scientists have unravelled but not fully deciphered.

Initial comparison of the mouse and human genomes shows that the species are closely related at a genetic level, even though the two last shared a common mammal ancestor 75 million years ago. The mouse genome is about 14 per cent smaller than its human counterpart, but each species has about 30,000 genes -- far fewer than estimates of just two years ago. A full 99 per cent of a mouse's genes have counterparts in humans, including genes that cause mice to have tails. Researchers say more than 90 per cent of genes associated with diseases are identical in humans and mice, underscoring the value of the latter in laboratory experiments.

Scientists are hoping that they would soon complete similar blueprints of the rat, cow, chimpanzee and dog. This will allow even more comparative genomic work. Genomic comparisons are expected to shed more light on the evolutionary history and biological diversity. Mice, for example, have more genes related to smell and mating than humans do.

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