During a research at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute in Scotland, scientists have been able to successfully map which genes are turned on and off in the different tissues and organs in a sheep’s body. The new findings reveal insights of the function of genes linked to immunity and meat quality and the animal’s complex biology. This could eventually help animal breeding programs to develop farm stocks and produce healthier animals.

The research revealed drastic conclusion which is a major step towards understanding how the sheep’s genetic information has a hold over its physical traits. Sheep have more than 20,000 different genes and the scientists have been able to analyze the total RNA produced in each tissue of the sheep’s body. The team’s sole focus was on RNA, which was produced as an immediate after step when DNA code is translated into the proteins and molecules that are the building blocks of cells and tissues.  The study has unlocked doors to hundreds of genes whose role was previously unknown to the researchers. The findings of the study have been published in the PLOS Genetics.

According to Professor Hume, who initiated this project, this study is the largest of its kind. The in-depth comparative analysis of the animals and large species will not only help the animal kingdom but also humans as these new finding could be further developed to obtain a healthier version of modern Homo sapiens.

An online database has been constructed to make sure the work of this study is accessible to scientists working anywhere in the world. The project has been sighted as a major contribution to the global Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes (FAANG) initiative.

According to Dr. Emily Clark, of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, who was the project coordinator, Sheep form an integral part of the rural economy in the UK and are essential to sustainable agriculture across the globe. The new study is a major step towards understanding the sheep’s genetic information and its influence on the physical traits of the animal. This study provides a foundation to develop healthier animals in future for sustainable livestock to increase productivity.

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