OMC is a scientific and technological platform aimed at supporting R&D activities related to the validation and use of mouse models of human disease. The similarity of the mouse and human genetic make-up means that genes associated with disease in humans can be studied and further investigated in mouse models. Conversely, fundamental research using mouse models can identify genes associated with disease and provide insights into pathogenic mechanisms underlying environment-driven diseases, including infectious diseases and cancer. This knowledge can then be transferred to understanding and treatment of disease in humans. However, mouse models are not always exact replicas of the human condition, and they are inadequate to study the onset and evolution of diseases that are caused by human-tropic infectious agents, such as HIV-1. Besides, common manipulations utilized by scientists in various fields to dissect the cellular and molecular basis of selected diseases make use of highly immunodeficient strains, whose reliability depends on the stringency of the SOPF measures adopted by local housing and breeding facilities.
Specialized staff is appointed full time in the various areas and received supports from professionals operating in the hospital, particularly as it pertains to the imaging and comparative pathology activities.
The Ospedale San Raffaele Mouse Clinic (OMC) is the follow-up and consolidation of a Regione Lombardia-funded project (EMDM), which aimed at the establishment and implementation of a large, dedicated facility (the European Mouse Disease Models Center) whose goal is the development and functional assessment of mouse disease models, both for the dissection of the underlying pathogenic mechanisms and for the screening and validation of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
OMC has developed and standardized a coordinate set of activities, including the creation of a non invasive imaging facility, based on the acquisition of dedicated equipment (7-Tesla small bore MRI; micro-CT scanner; micro-US scanner; optical imaging scanner; micro-PET), the creation of a comparative pathology Unit and the implementation of a dedicated area for the use of mouse pathogens. OMC also aims at potentiating the existing Conditional Mutagenesis Facility by implementing novel approaches to attain tissue-, stage- and site-specific transgene expression in mouse mutant strains, mainly through lentiviral vector-mediated transduction of blastocysts.
A major asset of the OMC platform is the tight integration of preclinical scientists with physicians, who work side by side to comparatively assess pathogenic, diagnostic and therapeutic issues raised in patients with the mouse model counterpart.
The Ospedale San Raffaele Mouse House is a modern, technologically advanced facility for the maintenance and breeding of rodents to be used for experimental research. This facility operates under the conditions and guidelines established by the Federation of Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA), particularly as it concerns the monitoring of health controls, the prevention of pain and distress and the executions of procedures of good laboratory practice under stringent SPFO conditions.
All experimental protocols involving rodents housed here need mandatory approval by the local IACUC. Besides assessing the scientific quality of the proposals involving experimental rodents and the underlying statistics, the Ospedale San Raffaele IACUC emphasizes the use and implementation of a harm-benefit analysis (HBA). HBA is the cornerstone of ethical evaluation, as it will determine if the use of animals is justified. The overarching ethical principles that need to be considered when engaging in animal research are driven by the same doctrines of replacement, reduction, and refinement in both the United Stated and Europe.