Mouse Module

Understanding how genes control growth and development in mammalian embryos is driven by our curiosity of how human form is generated and how it evolved from much simpler organisms. During the past century, the mouse has become firmly established as the primary experimental mammal, due to its small size, resistance to infection, large litter size and relatively rapid generation time. Mice were also favored because of an interesting collection of mutations affecting coat color, hair morphology and pigmentation that were readily available from “mouse fanciers”, breeders and collectors of interesting pet mice. Together with the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws of inheritance in the 1900’s, this initiated the study of mammalian genetics. Subsequently, the mouse was the first species whose genome was genetically modified by transgenesis, and the first species in which a gene was knocked out. These are indeed wonderful times to be studying mouse genetics as the mouse germ line can be experimentally manipulated in just about every conceivable way, including direct injection of DNA into zygotes, genetic modification of embryonic stem cells, via TALEN and CRISPR mediated genome editing, and by chemical or irradiation mutagenesis of spermatogonial stem cells.

Mammalian embryology in contrast is a much older field, and historically was closely associated with the study of human and veterinary reproductive physiology. In more recent times, the mouse has been instrumental in the discovery of imprinting, in the development of methods for in vitro fertilization, the discovery, maintenance and manipulation of embryonic stem cells, the demonstration of reprogramming via the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells, cloning via somatic cell nuclear transfer, and the development of hybridoma cells, providing a never ending source of antibodies.  

In this module students will learn how to properly handle, anesthetize and euthanize mice as well as perform surgeries including oviduct injection and transfer, and tissue transplantation under the kidney capsule. Students will have the opportunity to learn how to edit the mouse genome using the CRISPR/Cas9 system in preimplantation stage mouse embryos, both in vivo and in vitro. Students will learn how to isolate, culture and manipulate, post-implantation whole mouse embryos and their organs; how to manipulate key signaling pathways in vivo; and how to visualize gene products, cells and tissues of the skeleton, musculature, vasculature and nervous systems. Through a subcomponent of the module, known as the “Zoo Lab” students will have the opportunity to explore evolutionary development and comparative anatomy questions in a diverse range of species that typically includes mouse, lizard, chameleon, snake, bat, snail, turtle and pig embryos.