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Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Bishop Museum
gives these mice
VIP treatment

By Mary Adamski

Bishop Museum's got mice!

No, they aren't summoning an exterminator to set traps in dark corners.

These are VIP mice that will be in the spotlight as live stars in the "X-Treme Science, Exploring Oceans, Volcanoes and Outer Space" exhibit.

The seven petite creatures include cloned mice and others that contributed genetic material in groundbreaking research at the University of Hawaii Institute for Biogenesis Research.

Anatomy and reproductive biology professor Ryuzo Yanagimachi, head of the genetic research team, and UH President Kenneth Mortimer were to present the mice to museum Director Donald Duckworth today.

The animals will go on view Sunday in a glass-enclosed habitat as part of the science exhibit that will continue through May. It will be the first chance for island residents to get a look at the news-making genetic engineering research.

It is complex science, but the mice are color-coded in a way that make the science lesson easier for viewers. For instance, the mouse that was the cell nucleus donor is black and so -- aha! -- are the cloned mice.

A "surrogate mother" mouse is there, as well as an egg donor mouse.

Four of the mice are fluorescent; they glow green under black light. The glow comes from modified gene protein from jellyfish, which "is a quick demonstration that they are transgenic," said researcher Istefo Moisyadi. The scientists use transgenesis, introducing a foreign gene into the egg of another species, to study the function of genes and whether some forms of genetic disease can be cured.

Ah, but those days of heavy science and human interference are behind the acclaimed research rodents.

Moisyadi explained that the transfer to a museum display is the equivalent of a race horse being put out to pasture.

In the laboratory, they live under controlled light and temperature conditions "so they are fertile all the time.

"They're lucky. They cannot be used in the lab again. They'll die of old age or natural causes," he said.

They haven't completely escaped the lab regimen. When the UH animal caretakers brought them to the museum yesterday, they brought along boring scientific genetic mouse chow.

So it's no cheese to nibble on. Not yet.

And the Bishop Museum Acclaimed Cloned and Glowing Mice Troupe is still individually anonymous.

The only research animal to be named was the late Cumulina, the first mouse cloned by Yanagimachi's team, which died last May. She is on display, holding a mock chunk of cheese, at the Institute for Biogenesis Research.

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