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Genetic route to healthier, tastier pork could be possible through mapping

by 5m Editor
14 May 2007, at 11:05am

US - Max Rothschild has been trying to “build“ a better pig for almost 30 years. The renowned swine scientist from Iowa State University laboratory is dedicated to producing tastier chops, safer pork and healthier pigs and a new research centred on genome mapping techniques could bring home the bacon.

Rothschild is part of a national collaboration that received a $10 million federal grant earlier this year to map pig genes. Researchers from the University of Illinois-led project promise it will help take the guesswork out of breeding. The idea is to find and exploit the genetic variations of the best pigs, which Rothschild, and like-minded agricultural researchers say will radically change the industry.

Already, chicken and cow genomes — complete genetic maps of each species — have been published, and race horse breeders have applied to the National Human Genome Research Institute for a grant to run an equine DNA sequence. Most animal genetic sequences are now done with the support of the institute because of its expertise, and comparing animal genomes to the human genome helps with medical research.

Mapping the roughly 30,000 genes in each animal requires extracting the genetic material from its blood. The DNA is then replicated many times over and run through a computer known as a sequencer, which spits out the swine’s genetic makeup in a code of four letters — T, A, C, G — representing the nucleotides that comprise DNA.

Even before the pig genome is completed sometime next year, top commercial producers such as Pig Improvement Co. and Monsanto Inc. are using preliminary results from genetic screens to see if they can determine which pigs are the tastiest before they are butchered. The screens will also be used to manage herds and make breeding decisions, among other improvements.

“They can now look inside the pig and they are both building better pigs with this technology,” said Rothschild. He previously discovered a gene variation that causes sows to produce more piglets per litter than average. He developed a test for the variation that is now widely used throughout the industry, and he said it could be useful in the Third World.

“The developing world wants to eat meat and there’s only one way to produce it — grow more animals, ” he added.

Source: BakuSun

5m Editor