Special Correspondent

Gene knockout mouse lacking one of the milk protein genes created

Scientists create genetically engineered mouse by inactivating kappa-casein gene needed for lactation The technology can help in the creation of human disease models and drug discovery

HYDERABAD: Scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here have created the first gene knockout mouse, which lacks one of the milk protein genes, kappa-casein, required for lactation.

Indian biologists have successfully established in India "gene knockout technology" which was being used in some nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia and Japan.

Inactivating gene

Under this method, researchers create a genetically engineered organism by inactivating (knocking out) a particular gene to see the effects of its absence and understand its functions better.

Many applications

CCMB Director Lalji Singh told presspersons here on Tuesday that the technology had tremendous applications not only in the field of basic biology but also for the creation of human disease models and drug discovery.

The CCMB had created a National Facility for Transgenic and Gene Knockout Mice with support from the Department of Science and Technology and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The technology

Explaining the work carried out, Satish Kumar, who heads the facility, said the technology was based on mouse embryonic stem cells that could be maintained outside the body for long periods.

One could remove or modify an existing gene in these cells and reconstruct a novel animal.

In the absence of kappa-casein, the milk protein genes, the females were healthy but could not produce milk for the young ones.

Many implications

Dr. Singh and Dr. Kumar said the discovery had many implications in the field of mammalian evolution.

The mouse strain produced by them would be a useful model for creation of novel dairy animals with modified milk properties.

Useful model

It would also be a useful model in the efforts to create genetically-modified farm animals producing pharmaceutical proteins in their milk.

Dr. Kumar said they would now like to take up research work to remove all the casein protein genes, insert pharmaceutical proteins and see if the animal would still lactate.

Results published

Dr. Singh said the results were being published in the forthcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S., a prestigious research journal.