ST. LOUIS, Nov. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Sigma-Aldrich® Corporation (Nasdaq: SIAL) today announced that Sigma Advanced Genetic Engineering (SAGETM) Labs, an initiative of Sigma Life Science, in partnership with Autism Speaks, will present data on the biological and behavioral characterization of the first rats genetically engineered to model autism. The novel rat models of autism mimic specific symptoms and pathologies of autism to provide an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the underlying biology and therapeutic targets for autism spectrum disorders. Results of the initial experiments characterizing these models will be presented by Professor Richard E. Paylor, Ph.D., from Baylor College of Medicine with additional details on the importance and creation of the models by Robert Ring, Ph.D., Vice President of Translational Research at Autism Speaks, and Edward Weinstein, Ph.D., Director of SAGE Labs, on November 15, 2011 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Details on the symposium are available below, as well as at www.sigma.com/sfn2011.
Autism affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans and tens of millions more people worldwide, with US government statistics suggesting diagnoses are increasing annually by 10 to 17%. The cause and underlying neurobiology of autism remains poorly understood. Strong evidence does exist for a genetic basis of autism, prompting development of mice that model the genetic mutations found in autistic humans. However, the mouse's utility for autism research is restricted because the species' limited cognitive abilities and small behavioral repertoire often do not adequately reflect the behaviors or biology of humans with autism.
"The robust behavioral repertoire, similarities with human physiology, and sheer size contrast with mice, making rats an attractive model species for investigating neurodevelopmental disorders like autism," said Ring who added, "Developing these genetic models in rats has additional advantages from a translational research perspective in that they enable investigators to study the effects of novel treatments on autism relevant phenotypes in the same species traditional pharmacokinetics, metabolism and toxicology are studied to support the drug development process."
The knockout autism model rats were co-developed in a collaboration between scientists at SAGE Labs and Autism Speaks. The rats mimic specific symptoms of autism spectrum disorder because they are each genetically engineered to lack one of seven genes associated with the autism spectrum disorders: Fmr1, Neuroligin 3, Neurexin 1 alpha, Cav1.2, MeCP2, mGluR5, or PTEN. These rats will be available to all researchers through SAGE Labs by early 2012.
Scientists at SAGE Labs created the transgenic autism model rats through the SAGEspeed™ model creation process, which uses Sigma's proprietary CompoZr® zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology. CompoZr ZFN technology enables highly efficient, targeted editing of the genome of any species—previously impossible for complex species other than mice.
"One can use CompoZr ZFN technology to rapidly generate a genetic disease model in the species that is the best model for that condition, instead of relying only upon the mouse," said Weinstein.
In a separate collaboration with The Michael J. Fox Foundation, scientists at SAGE Labs created transgenic rats that are the first animal models of Parkinson's disease to tremor as humans do. Other transgenic research models created by SAGE Labs include rats for Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, cancer, and cardiovascular disease research, as well as rats for toxicology testing in drug development.
SAGE Labs' model generation services are available for rats, mice, rabbits, and other organisms. For more information, visit www.sageresearchmodels.com.
Details for the Society for Neuroscience Symposium
Title: Knockout Rats: Our New Allies in the Fight Against Autism
When: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM EST
Where: Room 152A of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Richard E. Paylor, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine
Robert Ring, Ph.D., V.P. of Translational Research, Autism Speaks
Edward Weinstein, Ph.D., Director, SAGE Labs