It may not mean much to Wall Street investors, but researchers worldwide were delighted to hear on May 6 that the mouse genome had finally gone public. Over the past few years, geneticists funded by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and the British foundation Wellcome Trust have been compiling DNA sequences from a strain of the common lab mouse. Those scientists have now assembled the sequences, which cover more than 95 percent of the rodent’s DNA, and made the draft genome available for free over the Internet.
The mouse genome is about 15 percent smaller than the human genome, according to the geneticists. They’ve identified about 22,000 genes and expect that the number will rise to more than 30,000. That’s comparable to the number of genes many scientists now think the human genome contains. The mouse researchers plan to publish their formal analysis of the genome later this year.
Another mouse genome has been available for about a year, but not for free. Celera, the Rockville, Md., company that sequenced the human genome, also completed a mouse genome, but researchers need to pay a subscription fee to access the data.