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Progress With Map of Chicken Genes / April 6, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Chicks atop a picture of a genetic map of a chicken.

Read: article in the April issue of Agricultural Research.

Progress With Map of Chicken Genes

By Don Comis
April 6, 2000

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is poised to decode the genetic rule books for making chicken, cattle, pigs and other livestock, as well as corn, soybeans and other important crops.

The most recent accomplishment is the latest "draft" of the chicken genome map, which can be viewed on the WWW at:

Agricultural Research Service geneticist Hans H. Cheng, with USDA's Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory in East Lansing, Mich., helped develop this map as part of the International Chicken Genome Mapping Project, begun in 1992. The map uses about 2,000 genetic markers to locate chicken genes. A more detailed genome map will be coming soon.

The chicken genome mapping project, like those for many other livestock and crops, is at the stage where the Drosophila fruit fly project was just a few years ago. The fruit fly genome map guided the recent decoding of all the chemical units of DNA in the genome--the only animal genome to be fully decoded so far, other than a roundworm.

In the race to map animal genomes, the human genome will be completed this summer, followed by model animals used for human health research, such as mice, rats, zebrafish and pufferfish.

The information from these other genomes will benefit the chicken and livestock efforts, because evolution has left many species--from yeast to mammals--sharing many of the same large chunks of DNA and genes.

The ultimate goal of the chicken genome map is to provide the tools to develop chickens bred for both disease resistance and high productivity. Besides cost savings, farmers would have less need to use antibiotics. The first disease to be targeted is Marek's, a costly viral disease of chickens. If successful, these would be the first chickens bred with modern molecular techniques.

An article about the research appears in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Scientific contact: Hans H. Cheng, ARS Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory, East Lansing, Mich., phone (517) 337-6828, fax (517) 337-6776,

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