U.S. scientists decode genome of pig

17:05, November 03, 2009      

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A team of scientists have produced a first draft of the genome of a domesticated pig, an achievement that will lead to insights in agriculture, medicine, conservation and evolution, University of Illinois said Monday in a press release.

A red-haired Duroc pig from a farm at the university will now be among the growing list of domesticated animals that have had their genomes sequenced, the researchers said. A genome is the full complement of an organism's DNA.

The researchers announced the achievement Monday at a meeting at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Britain.

"The pig is a unique animal that is important for food and that is used as an animal model for human disease," said Larry Schook, a professor of biomedical sciences and leader of the sequencing project at University of Illinois.

"Because the native wild animals are still in existence, it is a really exciting animal to look at to learn about the genomic effects of domestication," he said.

The Duroc is one of five major breeds used in pork production around the world and is one of about 200 breeds of domesticated pigs.

The draft sequence, which is about 98 percent complete, will allow researchers to pinpoint genes that are useful to pork production or are involved in immunity or other important physiological processes in the pig.

It will enhance breeding practices, offer insight into diseases that afflict pigs. It also will be important for the study of human health because pigs are very similar to humans in their physiology, behavior and nutritional needs, researchers said.

"This is just the end of the beginning of the process," Schook said. "Now we're just beginning to be able to answer a lot of questions about the pig."

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