TSI Corp. and researchers in the department of veterinary andanimal sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,have received a $500,000 Phase II small business innovationresearch grant to develop techniques to increase theavailability of Watanabe rabbits.

Watanabe rabbits have a genetic disorder that closely mimicsan inheritable human disease known as familialhypercholesterolemia. Both conditions produce extremely highlevels of low density lipoprotein, a type of cholesterol thatleads to cardiovascular disease, making the rabbits a goodmodel for human cardiovascular disease.

Difficulty in breeding the rabbits has resulted in a shortage ofanimals available for research. TSI and the university scientistshave been working to perfect embryo splitting and nucleartransplant techniques to produce genetically identicalWatanabe rabbits. Working under a $50,000 Phase I SBIR, theysplit early-stage Watanabe rabbit embryos into single cells. Thedonor cell nuclei were successfully transferred bymicroinjection into recipient rabbit cells from which the nucleihad been removed.

The current research, funded by the National Institutes ofHealth, aims to maximize the number of potential offspringproduced by the technique and to test the viability of theembryos when transferred into a female rabbit for continuedgestation.

Stock of Worcester, Mass.-based TSI (NASDAQ:TSIN) closeddown 38 cents at $12.50.

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