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.
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 mutations in a single nucleotide. It is now possible to pinpoint mutations across the whole genome quickly and study how the associated genes interact. "This information can be used to investigate disease in these species but also in many cases can be useful models for similar human genetic diseases," said Sang.
The conference showed how fundamental breakthroughs can be exploited in tackling disease. One of the most exciting discoveries of recent years is the fact that rods and cones are not the only light receptors in the eye, overturning the long established view. There is also a receptor, called phototropin, that recognises blue light at much lower levels, even operating in some people who are otherwise blind, playing an important role in setting the circadian clock. At the conference, one of the world's leading specialists in chronobiology (study of biological rhythms) Russell Foster, explained how mouse models were being used to study this newly discovered blue light receptor. "This has been analysed in mice and he is using the knowledge gained to interact with ophthalmologists (eye disease specialists) and patients," said Sang.
Genes determine individual traits not just through their variations, or alleles, but also through differing levels of expression. Another important field of research discussed at the conference concerned the important role of microRNAs in controlling gene expression. RNAs are normally the intermediate molecules between DNA and their products, proteins, in gene expression. However microRNA is a type of RNA that instead of being involved in protein production, feeds back into the DNA coding process to regulate the expression of other genes. Mutations in the genes coding for the microRNA itself can therefore effect the expression of other genes, with some subtle and occasionally dramatic effects, as Sang pointed out. Given that animals inherit two copies, or alleles, of each gene, mutations are more likely to be effective when one of the copies is already silenced, as happens in the phenomenon known as genomic imprinting. Sang cited the case of sheep, where imprinting of a gene called callipyge leads to increased muscle growth in the hindquarters, which clearly can be a desirable trait in meat production.
All these different strands of research could benefit from being integrated into a common framework to avoid duplication of effort and exploit relevant expertise, according to Sang. "The main value of the workshop was that it brought the more theoretical people together with experimental scientists and opportunities for synergies were identified."
Thomas Lau | alfa
Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences
19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences