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The Kennedy Institute has been announced as one of 7 new research clusters by the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network

National Mouse Genetics Network © MRC National Mouse Genetics Network

The MRC National Mouse Genetics Network is a major new £22 million investment in mouse genetics for disease modelling that will capitalise on the UK's international excellence in the biomedical sciences. The Network is comprised of 7 challenge-led research clusters, with members distributed across the UK.

Professor Fiona Powrie, Director of the Kennedy Institute leads the Microbiome cluster, which is receiving ~£2.8 million of MRC investment for creating and studying mouse models that allow investigation of the impact of the microbiome on genetic diseases involving barrier surface malfunction. This cluster brings together a range of clinical, immunological, and microbiome expertise from Oxford and the University's of Exeter and Manchester, to establish a national infrastructure for cutting-edge mouse microbiome research on inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, and combined immunodeficiency syndrome.

Jethro Johnson, Deputy Director of the Oxford Centre for Microbiome Research at the Kennedy Institute said: "Until now the microbiome has been an unconsidered factor in many mouse models, and that has potentially reduced the ability for models to be reproducible across different sites. So, as well as bringing microbiome expertise to the UK mouse genetics research community, we will address a specific disease challenge that will lead to better understanding of how such diseases develop and opportunities to develop novel treatments, and really meet a lot of medical research goals."

The Oxford researchers will focus on the role of the contribution of the microbiome to disease caused by genetic mutations that affect barrier surfaces in the gut. One example is the spleen tyrosine kinase gene SYK. In humans, gain-of-function mutations in SYK lead to immune deficiency, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Researchers from the University of Exeter will study the effect of mutations in the CFTR gene, causing cystic fibrosis. They will consider host-pathogen interactions in the airways, and the role of the microbiome in persistent infection and inflammation in this disease.

Researchers from the University of Manchester will study the contribution of the microbiome to the effects of losing ARPCB1 gene function, which in humans leads to immune deficiency and multi-organ inflammation.

The Mary Lyon Centre at MRC Harwell will act as the central hub of the Network, sharing access to specialist facilities, resources, data, and training with all other Network members, and is receiving £5.5 million to support this role. The partnerships established by the Network will enable integration of basic science research with clinical findings in order to accelerate our understanding of human disease and translation to patient benefit.

Owen Sansom, The MRC National Mouse GeneticsNetwork Director said: "We're excited to announce this first set of research clusters forming the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network and to synergising our efforts to deliver impactful preclinical science through comprehensive sharing of data, resources, and expertise. 

"By building connections between researchers working in such diverse fields and through development of comprehensive data-sharing infrastructure, the Network will create a platform that better links mouse genetics research to clinical advances."

Read the full story on the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network website