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Report of the NIH Rat Model Repository Workshop

Foreword

On behalf of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) convened this workshop to develop a plan for a Rat Model Repository.  The workshop was designed to plan what is needed by the research community, to recommend how to set up such a repository, to identify the most able group to establish this resource, and to decide how to assess and solve the problem of genetic heterogeneity among members of rat strains.

The NHLBI currently coordinates a consortium of 13 NIH Institutes and Centers to develop important genomic tools and resources for the rat through the Rat Genome Project (genomic libraries, genetic map, radiation hybrid cell lines, normalized cDNA libraries, allele characterization, cytogenetic map) and the Rat EST Project (array and distribute cDNA libraries, produce ESTs from cDNA libraries, and construct a gene-based EST map).  The Institute is also providing leadership for NIH to define the parameters and needs required to establish a significant, comprehensive rat database.

As the reagents, information, and materials from these efforts become increasingly available, they will create a significant, increased demand for the available models and will, at the same time, provide the ability to generate new model strains.  Hence, it is critical to have a Rat Model Repository for the collection, characterization, standardization, maintenance, development, and distribution of current and future rat strains.  In addition, the repository would address a number of other important problems.  For example, lack of accessibility is a major limitation to studies using inbred rat models because commercial suppliers carry a very small subset of inbred rat models.  Another problem is the lack of quality control and genetic monitoring of the maintained strains.  The lack of models of known genetic purity can impede research progress, compromise the value of many studies, and lead to wasteful and inefficient experiments.  It is also important to maintain existing strains because they have extensive physiological, pharmacological, and toxicological data sets.  Since exact re-derivation of a strain is not possible, their loss would be both scientifically and financially wasteful.

This workshop was structured to enable as much work as possible to be done in advance of the meeting (including the use of a Web site that provided a forum for posting predefined questions and the answers developed by participants) and was designed to promote maximal interaction for the development of implementable recommendations through the Breakout Groups and Plenary Sessions.  The report developed by this workshop will be used to guide the NIH in this most important endeavor.

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