At the Tytgat Insitute for Liver and Intestinal research, next to the AMC main building, PhD students are passionately trying to make their first scientific mark on their respective fields of study. To study human diseases many of these researchers rely on intricate mouse-models, which can provide important insights on pathophysiological mechanisms or novel treatments. These precious and valuable mice can be very challenging to breed and, as you can imagine, are carefully kept in a clean facility. Despite these precautions, this facility recently was infected with a very virulent mouse hepatitis virus. Understandably, when this was discovered all researchers who were in the middle of their experiments were fearful of having to throw away their data. As we speak, their mice are being tested whether they really are infected or not, a time-consuming process. Furthermore, the whole facility must be cleared out, meaning that most mice must be sacrificed. For many researchers, this means starting over and breeding their mice of interest all over again..
Although very misfortunate, this event offers us an important lesson. In scientific research, a proper back-up of the data on your computer is not sufficient to prevent the setbacks of a virus-infection. It is also crucial to cryopreserve embryos or sperm of your valuable genetically modified mouse strain. Since not only computers can catch a dangerous virus, mice can as well