Pigs in Central and South America are thought to have originated on the Iberian Peninsula. In a paper soon to be published in Heredity, the researchers tracked how these pigs adapted to different climates, altitudes, and diets.
As well as providing insights into how the pig evolved, the genome sequencing provides valuable new tools for animal breeding. One is a DNA test that can identify individual pigs that are less susceptible to certain diseases or have a genetic predisposition to fattening rapidly, eating less, and bearing many offspring.
On the biomedical side, researchers will build on ongoing efforts to use the pig to model human diseases, including lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The sequencing identified 112 genes in pigs that are also responsible for diseases in people, suggesting that pigs could be used for drug testing.
Another direction is to use pigs as a source of organs for humans. Schook mentioned eyelet cells for diabetics as an example.
"Human transplant of eyelets doesn't work because there's not enough cells in a single pancreas," he explained. "If you could have an animal source, even if they get rejected, they're plentiful."
Clearly, there are a plenitude of exciting possibilities for future research. "For me, the next phase is looking at this concept of epigenomicsof how the environment affects gene expression," Schook said.
|Contact: Susan Jongeneel|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences