Rat models

Animal models continue to be important tools for understanding disease mechanisms and for preclinical testing of potential therapeutics. Although the mouse is currently the most widely used species to model neurobiological disorders, we recognize that other model systems may also provide important insights.

Relative to the mouse, the rat has a larger brain and exhibits a more complex behavioral repertoire but still retains many tractable characteristics that make it amenable for laboratory research. Rats are sometimes falsely perceived as slightly larger versions of mice; however, the evolutionary distance between rats and mice may be as great as that between humans and Old-World monkeys1. Recent developments in genomic-editing technologies have facilitated the ability to manipulate the rat genome, thus spurring interest in the rat as a model for genetically linked disorders.

As such, SFARI is working with the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) to generate and distribute CRISPR/Cas9 rat models of autism. Models will be maintained in the outbred Long-Evans background strain, as this is often the strain of choice for cognitive, behavioral and systems neuroscience studies. The intent is for these models to be available to any qualified researcher, with minimal cost and restrictions.

Available models

For more information on these models and how to request them, please contact the MCW Gene Editing Rat Resource Center: mcwcustomrats@mcw.edu.


As an initial effort to characterize these lines, these models are being behaviorally phenotyped through a partnership with the Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain, at the University of Edinburgh and the Center for Development and Repair in Bangalore. Resulting data will be available pre-publication to any interested researcher.

For suggestions and comments on our efforts more generally, please contact SFARI: models@simonsfoundation.org.


1.Gibbs R.A. et al. Nature 428, 493-521 (2004) PubMed
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