The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) has initiated a new research project aimed at increasing our understanding of the role of genes in a range of diseases. The initiative, coordinated by scientists from the GSF - National Research Centre for Environment and Health in the Helmholtz Association - has a budget of €2.6 million, and will be run in close collaboration with the EU-funded European Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Programme (EUCOMM). Many gene defects have been linked to conditions such as breast and prostrate cancer, cardiovascular diseases, immune deficiency syndromes (allergies, neurodermitis), rheumatic diseases and diseases caused by the environment, such as Crohn's Disease. However, further research is needed on the role of these genes in diseases, and as they share 99% of their genetic make-up with humans, mice make an ideal organism for studying human genetic diseases. The project has selected 32 genes thought to be connected with these diseases. These genes will be mutated in the mouse models so that the effects of the respective gene defect can be examined. 'Genes can be switched off, but also be hyper-activated by mutations which allows us to investigate both the loss and the overproduction of the gene product,' said Professor Martin Hrabé de Angelis, coordinator of the project and Director of the GSF Institute of Experimental Genetics (IEG). The mouse models will then be submitted to the German National Genome Research Network (NGFN) Clinical Research Groups, which will identify the corresponding genes for further investigation. At the same time, the German Mouse Clinic (GMC), which is also under the direction of Professor Hrabé de Angelis, will serve as an information centre for all mouse models. Here the mice will be examined and characterised across all diseases - a general check carried out by collecting data on more than 240 different parameters, from external appearance to metabolism and behaviour. 'The concept's entirety constitutes the added value of this project,' emphasised Professor Hrabé de Angelis, 'due to the Mouse Clinic, it is safeguarded that the highest number of gene mutations possible will be registered.' After a certain time, the data concerning the mice will also be stored in the European Mouse Mutant Archive (EMMA) so that they are freely available to all interested scientists.