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International Team Sequences Draft Pig Genome

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Members of the International Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium announced today at meeting at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute that they have completed a draft version of the domestic pig genome.

"The pig is a unique animal that is important for food and that is used as an animal model for human disease," project leader Larry Schook, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a statement. "And because the native wild animals are still in existence, it is a really exciting animal to look at to learn about the genomic effects of domestication."

Some 200 domestic pig breeds and many other non-domesticated wild boar varieties are found around the world. Pork production primarily relies on just five or so domesticated breeds, including red-haired Duroc pigs.

For the pig genome sequencing effort, the team sequenced the genome of a Duroc pig from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The genome is currently about 98 percent complete. Much of the sequencing was reportedly done at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

With the availability of the draft genome, researchers hope to learn more about pig biology, evolution, and domestication and to come up with tools for identifying the genetics behind commercially valuable pig traits.

Those involved noted that the sequence also holds potential for understanding pig disease and immunity — traits that may be useful for getting to the bottom of human diseases as well, including those that infect both pigs and humans.

"This sequence provides a tool of real value in helping the research community to better understand human diseases, in particular by facilitating cardiovascular, pulmonary, gastrointestinal and immunological studies," Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Director Allan Bradley said in a statement.

The $24.3 million effort was funded through a public-private partnership involving the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, several state and academic institutions, and funding agencies in the Netherlands, France, European Union, UK, Korea, and Japan.

"This is a great day for the pig research community," project member Alan Archibald, a researcher with the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, said in a statement. "When we launched the international pig gene mapping project almost 20 years ago, few if any of us thought a pig genome sequence was attainable or affordable."

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