NIH News Release
National Center for Research Resources

Monday, January 28, 2002

Joyce McDonald, NCRR or
(301) 435-0888,

New Rat Resource and Research Center To Help Investigators Understand Human Disease

Bethesda, Md. — The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced today the official opening of the Rat Resource and Research Center (RRRC) at the University of Missouri (Columbia). Serving as a resource for investigators worldwide and to further the study of rat models for biomedical research, the RRRC will import, cryopreserve, produce, and distribute high-quality laboratory rats.

Researchers from the University of Missouri (Columbia); Indiana University School of Medicine (Indianapolis); Harlan-Sprague Dawley, Inc. (Indianapolis, IN); and Northwestern University Medical School (Chicago, IL) have formed the RRRC with a $6.7 million grant from NCRR and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The RRRC inventory will include various inbred, hybrid and genetically modified rats for use in biomedical research. These mutant rat strains will be provided to the RRRC by investigators who have derived them but do not have the resources to cryopreserve and broadly distribute them. There are currently many more mutant rat strains than there is capacity to make them available in pathogen-free form to the research community.

Many researchers are interested in using rat models to examine specific problems related to human health, but sources for specific rat strains are not well known. Although private companies distribute rats, their activities are generally limited to the most commonly used strains. The RRRC will therefore be a centralized facility both for information on the availability of specific rat lines as well as a source of the animals themselves.

"Rats serve as very important animal models of many human diseases and conditions and are one of the most important experimental animals in studies related to understanding physiological processes and health concerns in humans," said NCRR Director Judith Vaitukaitis, M.D. "Almost every organ system in humans can be studied using specific rat strains or mutants. This resource will significantly increase this capacity, while providing ‘value-added' services and research results."

"We are pleased to collaborate with NCRR in funding this program. This resource will help the scientific community accelerate the pace of research — particularly in the study of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease," said NHLBI Director Claude Lenfant, M.D.

Rat models provide more physiological data than perhaps any other experimental animal. Rats have been used to study the human cardiovascular system, for instance, to find ways to control blood pressure. The Dahl salt-sensitive rat exhibits many of the abnormalities associated with some types of human hypertension. Rats also have been used in research involving the human nervous system as it relates to various behaviors and drug addiction. Additional research has focused on the renal system, immunological systems, and reproduction, among others.

"The mouse and rat genomes are currently being mapped and sequenced, and this activity is expected to facilitate derivation of even more mutant rats in the near future," said Vaitukaitis. "The RRRC should therefore markedly increase the use of specific rat strains and mutants for research and thus facilitate the use of these animals to understand problems of human health and physiology."

In addition to the activities described above, the RRRC will provide "value-added" services when a given rat strain is imported into the center. These include genotyping, phenotyping, and testing for and eliminating pathogens. Research activities will also be performed to enhance the value of the center to the research community. These activities include development of new and lower cost methods for cryopreservation, new methods for testing for pathogens, and new methods for "cloning" rats by nuclear transfer techniques.

NCRR is the nation's leading Federal sponsor of resources that enable advances in many areas of biomedical research. NCRR support provides the scientific research community with access to a diverse array of biomedical research technologies, instrumentation, specialized basic and clinical research facilities, mammalian and non-mammalian animal models, genetic stocks, and biomaterials such as cell lines, tissues, and organs. News releases, fact sheets, and other materials are available on the NCRR website at

NHLBI, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, is the nation's leading supporter of biomedical research on diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lung; sleep disorders; and on the management of blood resources. Press releases, fact sheets, and other materials are available on the NHLBI website at: