Discovery genetics: serendipity in basic research.

Document Type


Publication Date



Breeding, Disease-Models-Animal, Mice-Mutant-Strains, Mutation

JAX Source

ILAR J 2005; 46(4):338-45.


The role of serendipity in science has no better example than the discovery of spontaneous mutations that leads to new mouse models for research. The approach of finding phenotypes and then carrying out genetic analysis is called forward genetics. Serendipity is a key component of discovering and developing mice with spontaneous mutations into animal models of human disease. In this article, the role of serendipity in discovering and developing mouse models is described within a program at The Jackson Laboratory that capitalizes on serendipitous discoveries in large breeding colonies. Also described is how any scientists working with mice can take advantage of serendipitous discoveries as a research strategy to develop new models. Spontaneous mutations cannot be planned but happen in all research mouse colonies and are discovered as unexpected phenotypes. The alert scientist or technician can rationally exploit such chance observations to create new research opportunities.

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