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 | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.illinois.edu
More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:
Sustainable recultivation of abandoned agricultural land in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus
04.12.2013 | Leibniz-Institut für Agrarentwicklung in Mittel- und Osteuropa
Which genes cause deafness in dogs?
04.12.2013 | Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
A star is formed when a large cloud of gas and dust condenses and eventually becomes so dense that it collapses into a ball of gas, where the pressure heats the matter, creating a glowing gas ball – a star is born.
New research from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, shows that a young, newly formed star in the Milky Way had such an explosive growth, that it was initially about 100 times brighter than it is now. The results are published in the scientific journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The young ...
06.12.2013 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News