Space has become the most precious factor in my research work. At the beginning of my research, budget was the most important factor. Without money I could do nothing. Five years later, personnel became the most important factor. I needed diligent assistants and devoted doctors. When I had got manpower to an acceptable level, I found my space was seriously limited, which in turn limited my manpower recruitment and research development.
I have been thinking of developing a technique called siRNA to deliver specific genes to the brain of mice since 2003. The technique uses detoxified viruses as vectors to carry specified genes to living cells or animals. I thought of using the technique to knock down some specific genes in the brain of living mice to regulate their emotional behavior. Though the vector viruses have been detoxified and proved to be safe, the administrative department of my hospital is still worried about the vector viruses. It claimed that a high level safety space with special equipment is required for such a kind of experiment. That claim was equivalent to an undeniable rejection against the development of siRNA technique, as I still had great difficulty getting a little common room for this animal study.
     I gave up the idea about siRNA and turned my attention to traditional genetic methods in 2004, which included the QTL (quantitative trait locus) method and the ENU-mutagenesis method. The QTL method uses two different strains of mice with opposite characters to breed. The studied characters are continuous rather than dichotomous variables. It’s impossible to say a mouse with or without a quantitative trait, such as body weight or height will produce. We measure the character of a mouse and give it a figure of the measurement. We have to breed hundreds of mice and see how the characters distribute to the offspring. That requires a lot of space.
     In the initiation stage of our ENU-mutagenesis program we did not feel any pressure for space because we screened the mice displaying specified behavior in a specific room in the Academia Sinica. However, when we got the waddling and obese lines and brought them back to our laboratory for further breeding, we were frustrated by limited space. I even thought of digging a huge basement secretly under my office. My mind was frequently occupied by thinking of how to get a big space for my mice until we got permission to use the animal rooms of the National Ocean University.
     We drove to see our new animal room last Thursday. It was about 35 kilo meters away from our hospital. Most people, without having my painful experience of craving for such a large animal space, would think it impractical to set up a lab at such a long distance. I was seriously thinking of preparing to set up an animal room in the Yu-Li Hospital (about 400 kilo meters from Taipei) at the end of last year. In addition, we have got the promise of a very nice assistant professor, Chen, at the National Ocean University to help us supervise the animal room. We may accordingly develop collaborative projects with Professor Chen and consolidate our branch lab in a beautiful place with oceanic scenery.
Hong CJ