The rat is only the third species to be sequenced to such a degree, after the completed human genome sequence in April 2003 and the draft mouse genome in December 2002.It confirms that the laboratory rat is in fact a good choice for medical research. Almost all human genes associated with diseases have counterparts in the rat genome.
For nearly 200 years, the laboratory rat has played a valuable role in efforts to understand human biology and to develop new and better drugs. Now, armed with this sequencing data, a new generation of researchers will be able to greatly improve the utility of rat models and thereby improve human health.
Researcher say that as they build upon the foundation laid by the Human Genome Project, it's become clear that comparing the human genome with those of other organisms is the most powerful tool available to understand the complex genomic components involved in human health and disease .That in turn will help show what makes mice different from people, and rats from mice .
If we have two things we can't really tell how far apart we are. Now that we have a third species we can see whether the changes are rat changes, mouse changes or human changes, say specialists. Rats have significant differences from mice and from people notably in olfaction and immune system genes.
Thus researchers say, "what makes us different from rats or mice is not some unique human gene, but rather what the body does with its genes."