On behalf of the Division of Research Services, it is a pleasure to welcome you here this morning. We are pleased to have the opportunity to honor the men and women whose vision and foresight contributed so much to our present understanding of basic biology.
The initial reason for developing inbred strains was to study cancer. More than 100 years ago neoplasms occurring in animals were determined to be qualitatively similar to those found in humans. Shortly after the turn of the century, genetically defined animals became necessary for tumor transplant studies. It was observed that transplantation of spontaneously developing neoplasms failed except in closely related individuals. This lead to the almost explosive development of inbred strains of animals in which the awardees played a critical role.
The Division of Research Services is committed to extending these pioneering efforts. An important mission of the Division's Veterinary Resources Branch (VRB) is to support NIH intramural research by providing healthy, genetically defined research animals. This was the primary reason for the Branch's organization in 1948 when it was known as the Laboratory Aids Branch.
The emphasis of VRB's programs has changed over the past quarter century. Initially, the emphasis was on large-scale animal production with minimal genetic definition. With the passage of time the demand by NIH investigators for more precisely defined animals has increased. Today, in terms of total numbers, the production of genetically defined inbred rodents is greater than that of outbred stocks.
One of VRB's roles in collaborating with the research institutes is particularly pertinent to the theme of this meeting, for it is within this organization that the various strains and stocks of research rodents are maintained and produced for the NIH. Included among these animals are practically all of those strains developed by the men and women to be honored here today.
In recognition of the usefulness of such animals to the biomedical research community at large, the NIH collection of rodents has been designated an international Genetic Resource by the World Health Organization. More recently, VRB has been designated by the International Committee of Laboratory Animals as a Resource Center for Nude Mice. The Division is committed to ensuring the genetic and microbiologic integrity of these animals. Later today you will hear about one of its quality assurance programs.
The change in the kind of research animal required is also reflected in the composition of the VRB-managed Genetic Resource. The initial group of 14 inbred mouse strains consisted of nearly all of the descendants of the original strains developed by these pioneers in the first decades of this century. Since then, the mouse resource has increased to nearly 100 inbred, congenic, and recombinant inbred strains.
The success of this resource could not have been achieved without the internal commitment by the staff to quality. Animal quality is dependent on health and genetic components. Both require appropriate management strategies.
The adaptation of gnotobiotic techniques to large-scale production has been one of the most important factors contributing to the development of the Genetic Resource. These techniques are effective in substantially reducing the risk of catastrophic loss of irreplaceable genetic material due to disease outbreaks. Maintaining and producing research animals under these conditions also results in a superior research tool since the experimental results are not compromised by the effects of subclinical or acute infections.
Gnotobiotic techniques have also had an enormous impact in extending the size of the resource. Introduction of new animals into an already established facility always involves a certain element of risk. By utilizing gnotobiotic technology, the degree of risk is substantially reduced. The Genetic Resource has been able to respond to the many requests by the research community for developing and maintaining specific animal models. Additionally, the use of gnotobiotic techniques has provided a means of protecting animal models with profound immunological defects. These newer models will further extend the value of the inbred strains developed by the awardees.
The Division of Research Services is proud of its role in continuing to build upon the foundations laid down by the farsighted individuals being honored here today. We are also pleased to be cosponsors of the workshop planned for these three days. It should afford a good opportunity for those scientists in attendance to exchange information related to the use of mouse models. We are also hopeful that communication will be continued in future meetings such as these.