Laboratory animals are the source of major discoveries and breakthroughs in biology, not just in tackling disease but also unravelling fundamental molecular processes. Delegates at a recent research conference organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and Wellcome Trust heard how technology capable of analysing animal genes across the whole genome is yielding many benefits for agriculture and human society.
In breeding both domestic and farm animals for example, it is now possible to select individuals with a wide spectrum of desirable traits in a single generation. In the past selective breeding of animals has been confined to traits that are obvious or easy to measure, and it has been difficult to produce individuals with a broad combination of desirable qualities, according to Helen Sang, chair of the recent ESF/Wellcome conference on Animal Biotechnology.
There is the potential to increase the effectiveness of genetic selection, even for traits that are difficult or take a long time to measure, said Sang from the Roslin Institute Department of Gene Function & Development Edinburgh United Kingdom. The key point here is that it is now possible to identify individual animals for breeding, and select offspring, with the best overall combination of gene variants (alleles) rather than focusing on just one or two traits. Sang is also
This ability to measure whole genomes is also helping unravel the genetic components of many multi-gene diseases in both humans and animals. It is impressive how quickly specific mutations can be mapped in farm animal species and the dog, now that genome sequences are available and SNP maps, said Sang. SNP, or Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, refers to the single point variations between the DNA of individuals of a species that determine traits. These lead to the existence of different versions of some genes, called alleles, and in some cases these variants arise in an individual through mutatio
|Contact: Dr. Helen Sang|
European Science Foundation