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Hermitage Granted Patent on Mitochondrial DNA Technologies

by 5m Editor
13 July 2012, at 7:26am

EU - Hermitage Genetics have been granted a European Patent for their research technology project “Sequencing the mitochondrial DNA with reference to fertility as a means of optimisation of sow breeding lines“.

The patent was granted in June 2012. In terms of basic research findings, the Hermitage team have demonstrated that the mitochondria and the mitochondrial DNA have a significant influence on fertility in pigs, i.e. piglets born alive.

Hermitage Genetics have been working on this project since 2003 in collaboration with a leading German animal DNA diagnostic laboratory, Certagen GmbH. The research team was headed by Professor Klaus Olek and Dr Thomas Jansen.

Mitochondria are sometimes described as "cellular power plants" because they generate most of the cell's supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used as a source of chemical energy. In addition to supplying cellular energy, mitochondria are involved in a range of other processes, such as signaling and cellular differentiation as well as the control of the cell cycle and cell growth. Although most of a cell's DNA is contained in the cell nucleus, the mitochondrion has its own independent genome and the analysis of this genome was the focus of the Hermitage research.

A piglet’s mitochondrial genes are not inherited by the same mechanism as nuclear genes. At fertilization of an egg cell by a sperm, the egg nucleus and sperm nucleus each contribute equally to the genetic makeup of the offspring nucleus. In contrast, the mitochondria, and therefore the mitochondrial DNA, comes from the egg only. Mitochondria are, therefore, inherited down the female line, known as maternal inheritance. Because the mitochondrial DNA is inherited as a single unit, or haplotype, the relationships between mitochondrial DNA from different individuals can be represented as a gene tree. Hermitage has developed a method to accurately predict the fertility of their maternal lines by combining the mitochondrial DNA analysis with the Hermitage Maternal Line BLUP Programme. This technology further enhances the rate of genetic progress per generation being made on the Hermitage Hyperprolific Maternal Lines. “This exciting technology has been incorporated into our purebred maternal line breeding programmes, significantly enhancing the progress that can be made in the maternal line traits of economic importance each generation. The results are clearly evident with many Hermitage Closed Herd BLUP customers now weaning over 30 pigs per sow per year“ commented Ronan Murphy, Hermitage business manager.

In addition to the Mitochondrial DNA analysis, Hermitage Genetics also maintain a complete DNA database of all their AI boars standing at stud worldwide. This allows Hermitage to trace any first generation progeny of their AI boars back to its sire and provides for complete traceability throughout the pork chain. DNA samples can be derived from live progeny (hair or blood samples) or even from individual carcases or meat samples from the supermarket shelf. Hermitage has been operating the 'DNA TRACE' system in association with Certagen GmbH since 2006.