Division of Comparative Medicine

The Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM) provides animal husbandry and clinical care for all research animals on the MIT campus. From its inception in 1974, the division has evolved into a comprehensive laboratory animal program that provides a full range of veterinary and surgical support. Additionally, the division has a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for training veterinarians for careers in biomedical research. The division also has an active research program funded by numerous R01 grants from NIH. Total personnel in the division now comprises 130 individuals. The division's administrative headquarters along with diagnostic and research laboratories are located on the eighth floor of Building 16. This space is contiguous to the eighth floor of Building 56, which houses quarantine, diagnostic and research space for DCM. The division now encompasses approximately 115,000 square feet devoted to animal research activities. In addition a new vivarium has been planned for the new neuroscience complex currently under construction.

Facility Management and Animal Care

The average daily census of laboratory animals increased 5 percent during FY2003. Mice remain the primary species used by MIT investigators and represent more than 98 percent of the animal population. The animal facilities support transgenic and gene "knockout" in vivo experiments. DCM now operates a transgenic core and performs a range of transgenic services including in vivo embryo transfer for rederivation of mice with endemic disease which have been imported to MIT from laboratories worldwide, in vitro fertilization, genotyping of mice and provides genetically engineered mice. The division has begun to develop expertise in aquaculture and now provides veterinary support for the large zebra fish colonies maintained at MIT. The division used a $660,000 grant from NIH for improving Institutional animal resources to partially pay for physical improvements to the E25 animal facility and to purchase additional caging. The animal resource program was recertified by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation for Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) during the summer of 2002. The division has been collaborating with the Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHS) to produce an ergonomic training video for animal technicians involved in animal care.

Research Activities

Current NIH-funded grants support in vivo study of nitrite carcinogenesis, in vivo study of Helicobacter hepaticus and tumorigenesis, in vivo study of the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease, in vivo study of H. pylori pathogenesis, in vivo study of gastric cancer, in vivo study of heat shock protein and H. pylori pathogenesis and in vivo study of microecology of the gut and the pathogenesis of colitis. The division also provides the animal models and pathology core for the Center for Environmental Health Sciences' core grant. Total research expenditures were $3.6 million in FY2003.

FY2003 was the 15th year of the division's NIH postdoctoral training grant and funding has been approved for an additional five years. There are currently eight postdoctoral trainees, two of whom are enrolled in the graduate program in the Division of Biological Engineering. Twenty-eight trainees have completed our postdoctoral training program and 23 of them have now passed the board examination of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. Many of our former trainees hold leadership positions in academia.

DCM faculty and staff published 1 book, 9 chapters, 28 papers and 29 abstracts in FY2003 and presented numerous research papers at national and international meetings. Dr. Fox has agreed to be the senior editor for the second edition of a 4 volume series entitled "The Mouse in Biomedical Research."

Academic Activities

Dr. James Fox has been appointed to the NIH Scientific Advisory Council of the National Center for Research Resources for 2002–2007. Dr. Alison Hayward was hired as a clinical veterinarian to oversee DCM's transgenic core to replace Dr. Melanie Ihrig. DCM faculty and staff taught two graduate courses in the Division of Biological Engineering (BE.202 Animal Models in Toxicology and BEH.214 Human Pathophysiology.

Committee on Animal Care Activities

All students, staff members, visiting scientists, and principle investigators who use animals in teaching or research must be certified by the Committee on Animal Care (CAC). To enable protocol submission and personnel training, the web site for the CAC provides required forms, continuing education material and information on the CAC's activities. DCM staff in conjunction with the CAC has developed an online training program that is combined with individual orientation and training in animal use by the veterinary staff at the Institute. Periodically, individual and group didactic training sessions for Institute personnel on topics pertaining to the care and use of laboratory animals are also offered. The CAC has also developed an occupational health screen for animal related occupational health issues and periodically sponsors seminars on health issues such as zoonotic diseases. The CAC continued to distribute to other institutions in the United States and abroad two instructional videos, one focusing on the role and responsibilities of Institutional Committees for the Care and Use of Animals and the other focusing on the use of anesthesia in laboratory animals. Both are available to researchers at the division or in the Schering-Plough Library.

James G. Fox,
Professor of Toxicology

More information on the Division of Comparative Medicine can be found on the web at http://web.mit.edu/comp-med/.


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