MELBOURNE, Australia – A team of researchers successfully mapped a complete sheep genome after eight years of work. The team is part of the International Sheep Genomics Consortium, which includes 26 institutions in eight countries.

Researchers discovered rumen-specific genes. Genes normally expressed in skin also are a highly expressed in the rumen, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). The team also found a gene that is present in most mammals but expressed only in ruminants.

While focusing on genes involved in the production of wool, researchers found a new pathway for the metabolism of lipid in sheep skin. Lipid is thought to play a role in the development of wool and lanolin, according to CIRO.

The sheep genome will enable researchers to explore similarities and differences between humans and sheep at the molecular level. Future research could lead to improved medical treatments conditions such as asthma and sepsis, CIRO noted.