"Coronaviruses" by CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy / Public Domain

Labs rush to study coronavirus in transgenic animals — some are in short supply

Mar 10, 2020

By Ewen Callaway

As coronavirus marches around the globe, a sleepy town on the rugged Maine coast has become an unlikely nucleus in researchers’ efforts to combat the disease, known as COVID-19. The Jackson Laboratory, a mouse-breeding facility in Bar Harbor, is rushing to produce stocks of a transgenic mouse that scientists hope will help them to understand the virus.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with requests,” says Cathleen Lutz, a neuroscientist who heads the institute’s mouse repository. The facility has already received orders from around 50 labs for more than 3,000 mice that produce a human version of the protein ACE2, which the virus causing the outbreak, SARS-CoV-2, uses to enter cells. Normal mice seem to be resistant to infection.

With more than 110,000 confirmed human cases worldwide and no sign that the coronavirus is going away, researchers are looking to animals to understand COVID-19. They are testing monkeys, mice and even ferrets to answer key questions about the disease and to fast-track potential drugs and vaccines for clinical trials.

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