Funding that came through ACES allowed Schook and others to put together the Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium, an alliance of university, industry, and government laboratories in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The USDA committed 10 million dollars to the project. Today the project includes scientists from more than 50 research groups.
Schook said that the project has three main objectives: (1) to serve as a blueprint for understanding evolution and domestication, (2) to advance research on animal production and health, and (3) to explore ways to use the pig in biomedical applications.
The first publication, which just appeared in Nature, focuses on the pig's evolution. Researchers compared the reference genome from T.J. Tabasco with genomes of wild and domestic pigs from Europe and Asia (including archaeological and museum samples), and to human, mouse, dog, horse, and cow genomes.
"The pig is interesting because the wild boar still exists," Schook explained. "We could look at domestication, and we also looked at speciation. From an evolutionary perspective, these Sus species diverge in a very short time."
The researchers traced the domestic pig back to Southeast Asia. From there, it spread across Eurasia. The glaciation period separated the pigs into two groups about one million years ago. Today they are almost sub-species. "However, their chromosome structures have stayed very similar," Schook noted.
Pigs were independently domesticated in western Eurasia and East Asia 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. There is evidence that as the early European settlers moved around, they bred the domesticated females with wild boars.
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 islet 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 epigenomics–of how the environment affects gene expression," Schook said.
Other U of I researchers involved in the project are: Jon Beever, Laurie Rund, Sandra Rodriguez-Zas, Bruce Southy, and Jonathan Sweedler. Harris Lewin and Denis Larkin, who have left the U of I, are also part of the project.
The research was recently published in Nature and is available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7424/full/nature11622.html.
Susan Jongeneel | EurekAlert!
Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli
26.04.2017 | University of the Basque Country
New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences