UNC-based collaboration, NC resources fuel genetics and disease discoveries

A series of scientific papers published this week put North Carolina at the center of a scientific resource that could help fast-track important discoveries about genetics and disease, resulting in new tests and treatments that benefit human health.

Researchers have long been frustrated by promising lab results that hit obstacles on the road to human application. Sometimes this is because research findings in other living organisms cannot be extrapolated to the human population as a whole.

To overcome this obstacle, scientists have begun to create libraries of genetic material. The UNC-based Collaborative Cross is one such resource. It contains 10-times the genetic diversity of a typical laboratory mouse population — a level equivalent to the natural genetic variation in humans – and provides better data for geneticists.

The project is led by Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, Ph.D., in the UNC genetics department and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, David Threadgill, Ph.D., a geneticist at North Carolina State University and UNC Lineberger member, and Gary Churchill, Ph.D., at The Jackson Laboratory.

Pardo-Manuel de Villena is the lead author on a new paper featured on the cover of the journal Genetics. The study provides the first comprehensive description of the mouse genome library, which is being shared with scientists across the country through an online genome browser. His paper is one of 15 studies related to the Collaborative Cross appearing this week in the journals of the Genetics Society of America.

Pardo-Manuel de Villena noted that the project would not be possible without the efforts of the collaborative cross consortium, a global group of scientists that includes National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., (a graduate of the UNC School of Medicine) and National Human Genome Research Institute scientist Samir Kelada, Ph.D.