Monday, September 6, 2010

WPI: Of Mice and Medicine

Source: Reno Gazette Journal
Date:   July 11, 2010
Author: Lenita Powers

Of mice and molecular medicine

When the University of Nevada, Reno's $77 million Center for
Molecular Medicine opens in September, it will house 40,000 mice
and state-of-the-art laboratories to conduct research into possible
cures for muscular dystrophy, breast cancer, stroke, herpes and
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other illnesses.

The 116,500-square-feet structure will allow the university to
expand its research and generate more federal grants, said Thomas
Kozel, a professor of microbiology and immunology and the center's
project manager for the School of Medicine. "When we first started
planning this facility six or seven years ago, the basic problem
was space," he said. "We were absolutely built out as far as what
we could do in research. It will expand our ability to work on
multiple projects at the same time. It also expands our containment
facilities and our ability to work with human samples."

A significant part of the cost of the new center was the construction
of a vivarium, a building to house mice, Kozel said. "But not just
any mice," he said. "They will be transgenic mice. We can genetically
alter these mice, for example, to knock out a gene for a particular
protein of choice or to knock in a gene, and then we can see how that
particular protein functions."

The transgenic mice are inbred strains that scientists can use to
put in or remove genes to recreate any of the genetic diseases, such
as muscular dystrophy, for research, he said. The new center also
will allow faculty to use the team concept now favored at modern
medical research facilities, Kozel said. "Laboratory design has
changed, not just here but around the world," he said. "The buildings
they are building now are built for research teams, so in this new
building there will be larger teams of four or five faculty and a
group of 30 investigators who will work together. Rather than
departmentalizing, we will work together and share resources, share
thoughts, share students and share technicians," Kozel said. "When
it is fully populated, I anticipate we will have from 25 to 35
faculty and each of those faculty will lead a research team of five
to eight individuals so you will have around 150 to 200 people."

University President Milt Glick said most of those positions will be
funded by research grants. Most of money to build the center --
about $60 million -- came from indirect costs from grants awarded
to UNR faculty, Glick said. "It came from our faculty, competing at
the top of their game for these grants," he said. "Our sponsored
research and public service bring in about $100 million a year,
which is about half of all the sponsored research that goes on in

And with the promise of a state-of-the-art facility and expanded
research, the center is expected to attract new scientists to the
campus who will bring their projects and grants with them, Glick

UNR scientists will be working at times with researchers from the
Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease, which will
be housed in the center. Through their foundation, Harvey and
Annette Whittemore of Reno pledged $5 million toward the
construction of the center.

The Whittemore Peterson Institute has laboratory space and conducts
research at UNR but would move into the top two floors of the new
center's east wing and begin providing clinical care to patients
with chronic fatigue syndrome and fribromyalgia, a condition
characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened and
painful response to pressure that affects mostly women.

Annette Whittemore, founder and president of the institute, said
its mission is to develop a knowledge base that will lead to
diagnostics and the effective treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
and similar neuro-immune diseases. Last year, Whittemore Peterson
institute researchers discovered a new infectious human retrovirus,
XMRV, that may cause or at least contribute to Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome. "Our vision is that, as we show the science that's
already there, we could look for additional scientific knowledge
on the campus," she said. "The partnership and the integration has
been phenomenal, and we think we can bring back to the university
knowledge and equipment," Whittemore said. "We also hope we can
bring new researchers and medical expertise so we can help educate
(UNR's) medical students and provide a home for them to come
through, and that they can in turn help our patients as well."

(c) 2010 Reno Gazette Journal

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