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From The Editors

Nature Reviews Genetics 10343 (June 2009) | doi:10.1038/nrg2608

Model organisms continue to be fundamental to almost every aspect of genetic research. Three articles in this month's issue highlight the breadth of areas in which animal models provide insights, but also emphasize the need to use these organisms in the most effective way.

The Review from Lessing and Bonini on page 359 illustrates how one classic genetic model can be used to shed light on pathways that are relevant to disease. The wide range of genetic tools that can be used in Drosophila melanogaster has allowed the identification of many genes that are required to maintain neuronal integrity — over half of which have mouse or human counterparts that lead to neurodegeneration when disrupted.

Despite the advantages of flies and other non-mammalian organisms, the mouse remains the leading genetic model for disease. In a Review on page 371, Beckers and colleagues discuss three key areas in which the use of mouse models needs to be improved for maximum utility in both disease and basic research. They stress the need for genotypes more similar to those in human populations, more comprehensive and coordinated phenotyping and — the biggest challenge — methods to analyse environmental effects.

The choice of model organisms for evo–devo research is the topic of the Opinion article by Sommer on page 416. The author argues that focusing on a few key models with extensively developed genetic toolkits would be beneficial for tackling several aspects of this field, rather than studying a wider range of organisms in less detail.

The issue also features the first of two interviews with the recipients of this year's March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology (page 351). The second interview will appear in our July issue.


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