Scientists have mapped the genome of the domestic pig in a
project that could enhance the animal's use for meat production
and the testing of drugs for human disease.
A study published in science journal Nature identified genes
that could be linked with illnesses suffered by farmed pigs,
providing a reference tool for selective breeding to increase their
resistance to disease.
"This new analysis helps us understand the genetic
mechanisms that enable high-quality pork production, feed
efficiency and resistance to disease," said Sonny Ramaswany,
director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National
Institute of Food and Agriculture.
"This knowledge can ultimately help producers breed
high-quality swine, lower production costs and improve
Alan Archibald at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin
Institute in Scotland, who worked on the project with collaborators
in the Netherlands and the United States, said the new genome
sequence was the first good draft.
Archibald said while making sense of the analysis would take
time, the benefits of genome sequencing flow through more quickly
in agriculture than, for instance, human medicine, "because we
can use selective breeding".
Identifying genes responsible for diseases that are also seen in
people could see pigs used more extensively for drug testing.
For instance, the inherited illness known as porcine stress
syndrome, which can cause sudden death in pigs, has similarities to
the human condition malignant hyperthermia which causes a fast and
dangerous rise in body temperature in some people under general
Some of the genetic faults that pigs share with humans can be
linked with conditions as varied as Alzheimer's disease,
diabetes, dyslexia, obesity and Parkinson's disease, the
"In total, we found 112 positions where the porcine protein
has the same amino acid that is implicated in a disease in
humans," they said.
Previously published by Reuters.
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