I.S.U. researcher part of cattle-genome mapping team

by Bryan Salvage
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AMES, IOWA — James Reecy, director of the Office of Biotechnology and associate professor of animal science at Iowa State University, is part of an international team that mapped the cattle genome. Mr. Reecy worked on the annotation portion of the mapping project that manually examined the computer-generated genetic sequencing.

Animal genome sequencing in the past has focused primarily on small animals such as dogs. "This is the first time cattle were sequenced for a whole genome assembly," Mr. Reecy said. "It is important that we have the entire genome for a large animal."

The National Institutes of Health, which was interested in how this sequencing could help understand the previously mapped human genome, funded the research in part.

The grouped mapped the genome of Taurine cattle, or non-humped cattle, which include the Angus, Shorthorn and most other beef and dairy breeds that are common to colder-weather areas such as North America and Western Europe.

Researchers chose cattle to be mapped because the species fills a need in the list of animals that can help understand animal and human genes. Mapping cattle also helps fill in needed information in the evolution of different species. Cattle fit a unique evolutionary group. Research benefits for farmers include possibly learning more quickly which genes are associated with which traits of importance in cattle.

"We can increase the efficiency with which we can say, 'This gene is associated with this trait,'" he added. "This will help us answer questions like, 'Can we improve milk production? Can we improve the healthfulness of beef?' This will allow us to do things quickly that otherwise would have taken us years."

Lead project researchers were from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia. The project was funded partially through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, CSIRO and National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Findings from the project are being published in the current edition of the journal Science.

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