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2004 Rat
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1900 Rediscover Mendel
1888 Boveri
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Genetics and Genomics Timeline
The rat genome

In the early 1990s, some in the genetics community said that sequencing the genome of the laboratory rat would be a waste of resources. The mouse genome was in line to be sequenced after the human genome, and sequencing another rodent, they argued, would be repetitive.

But in fact mice and rats are used in different ways in biomedical research, and a group of scientists formed the Rat Genome Sequencing Project Consortium. In March 2004, they unveiled a “high-quality draft” of the rat genome, reporting in Nature that rats have many of the genes known to cause disease in humans.

Because rats are physiologically similar to humans, they are used in research on many disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, and addiction. Drug developers routinely test new compounds on rats.

The rat genome is smaller than the human genome but larger than the mouse version. All three species—the first mammals to be sequenced—have roughly the same number of genes, between 25,000 and 30,000.

The draft sequence covers 90 percent of the rat genome. Unlike the human and mouse versions, the rat sequence will probably never be completely finished due to the expense of filling in the remaining gaps.

The consortium, led by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, sequenced the Brown Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), the most popular strain used in research and also a pest and a pet worldwide.

For current news visit GNN’s Mice and Rat Page.

Related GNN Story: The Rat Genome Unveiled

Waterston, Gibbs, R. et al. Genome sequence of the Brown Norway rat yields insights into mammalian evolution. Nature 428, 493-521 (April 1, 2004).

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