As the funding starts to flow into research centers and laboratories around the world ramp up to research and develop COVID-19 vaccines, they must secure an essential research input—mice. After all, it is the murine input in sufficient numbers to support animal experiments. Mice are cheap and relatively plentiful compared to ferrets and monkeys. Luckily for mice (and unlucky for humans) the coronavirus doesn’t make normal mice sick. Therefore, humans must produce genetically altered mice and they are not feasible to keep live in stock. Rather, their sperm and embryos are stored in cryopreservation tanks. The problem is that even major murine suppliers like the nonprofit Jackson Laboratory don’t have the type of genetically altered murine species required—those with the humanized ACE2 gene.
Whose got the Humanized ACE2 gene Murine?
Or as NPR’s Martha Ann Overland recently educated us all—who did have them? Well The Jackson Laboratory, a specialist in murine research supply started looking, reports Cat Lutz, senior director of the Mouse Repository in Bar Harbor, Maine. Lutz noted to NPR’s Renee Montagne that apparently in 2007, a mouse model was developed solely for the purpose of the coronavirus (in that case SARS which is a type of coronavirus). Mice of course are instrumental for lots of research and COVID-19 in particular. The market for mice models totals $1.6 billion by 2021.
A Coronavirus Murine Expert at University of Iowa Medical School
As it turns out, University of Iowa Medical School’s Dr. Stanley Perlman is a global expert in coronavirus murine models. He had supply, in the form of unused frozen sperm, which was sent to Lutz’s lab at The Jackson Laboratory. On March 2 the Maine-based lab produced their first batch of humanized ACE2 gene mice.
Mother Nature Involved
Once the supply for production is secured, the murine makers must reckon with Mother Nature. As Lutz reported to NPR, “Gestation time is about three weeks and then it takes another three weeks for the mice to reach adulthood and be weaned from their mom.” Thereafter the lab must await at least a couple more weeks for the mice to advance to a sexually reproduceable state making the total production time at least 12 weeks, reported Lutz.
The Jackson Laboratory has completed multiple in vitro fertilizations and, according to Ms. Overland of NPR, can now meet the demands of 50 different labs totaling 3,000 mice. Lutz told Ms. Overland that will soon be hundreds of thousands of mice.