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U. of I. pig to make history
– as source of first complete swine genome
Life Sciences Editor
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
B. Schook, right, a professor of animal sciences at
Illinois and co-chairman of the International Swine
Genome Sequencing Consortium, will head the project
that is expected to cost $20 million and involve researchers
at seven other institutions. Animal sciences
professor Jonathan Beever, left, and Schook announced
last year that a side-by-side
comparison of the human and pig genome revealed remarkable
— A pig used for research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
has a home in history. Its DNA will provide the first sequence of the
swine genome to be completed with the help of a two-year $10 million
grant from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture announced today by Agriculture Secretary
Lawrence B. Schook, a professor of animal
sciences at Illinois and co-chairman of the International Swine
Genome Sequencing Consortium, will head the project that is expected
to cost $20 million and involve researchers at seven other institutions.
Sequencing of the some 2.5 billion chemical base pairs that spell out
the pig’s genetic code will be done at the Wellcome Trust Sanger
Institute in the United Kingdom. The groundwork for the project has
grown over time at Illinois, through extensive swine research, the development
of genetic tools and a campus commitment to pursue genome-related research
with the establishment of the Institute
for Genomic Biology, Schook said.
Last year Schook and Jonathan Beever, a professor of animal sciences,
announced that a side-by-side comparison of the human and pig genome
revealed remarkable similarities. They rearranged 173 pieces of the
human genome to make a map of a pig.
“Now we can take all of the pieces and put them into their correct
order and know the exact DNA sequence in each piece,” Schook said.
“We were able to build a map to know what parts of the pig genome
were equivalent to the same parts of the human genome. Now we can take
those parts and compare them sequence by sequence.”
Schook, Beever and Bruce Schatz, interim head of the department of medical
information science in the U. of I. College
of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, will continue an ongoing collaboration
with Jane Rogers and Sean Humphray at the Sanger Institute to provide
an initial three-fold coverage of the pig genome sequence.
As the sequencing proceeds, the data will be mined on campus at the
IGB. Because the pig and human genomes are similar in size, complexity
and organization, researchers expect that comparisons will lead to biomedical
advances, including pig-to-human transplants and disease treatments.
“This grant represents the efforts of many colleagues around the
world,” Schook said. “We were very fortunate to be able
to conduct research that provided the opportunity to assume this leadership
position. Clearly this is a significant acknowledgement of the leadership
of the genomics program at the University of Illinois.”
The female, reddish-brown Duroc pig involved in the project was used
by Beever and Schook to study genes that control growth and contribute
to meat quality. Its DNA also was extracted, donated and cloned to develop
genetic tools and biomedical models.
The USDA grant – issued through its National Research Initiative
– also recognizes the success of the university’s participation
in the Livestock Genome Sequencing Initiative (LGSI), also funded by
the agency, said IGB Director Harris Lewin.
“It’s truly gratifying to have the USDA acknowledge the
efforts of our LGSI and our national and international collaborators
by selecting our proposal for funding,” Beever said. “After
many years of laying the foundation for sequencing of the pig genome,
it is truly rewarding to see our dreams of a porcine sequence come true.
This sequencing will have tremendous, long-lasting impacts on the continuum
of science in animal agriculture and human health.”
Other financial contributors to the project are the National Pork Board,
Iowa Pork Board, Iowa State University, North Carolina Pork Council
and North Carolina State University, as well as sources in France, South
Korea, Holland and the United Kingdom.
The other five institutions collaborating with Illinois and the Sanger
Institute are the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland; the University
of Nevada, Reno; INRA Cellular Genetics Laboratory, Toulouse, France;
USDA Agricultural Research Service Meat Animal Research Center, Clay
Center, Neb.; and Iowa State University.