DNA Fingerprinting Promotes Health and
Safety By Laura
McGinnis January 30, 2007
Identifying individual animals is essential to controlling diseases
and monitoring international imports and exports.
To find out who's who in a herd, scientists and cattle industry
professionals rely on DNAespecially when traditional animal
identification has been lost or damaged. Highly specialized genetic markers,
developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at the
Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Neb., are helping to improve
animal identification and parentage testing.
The most common type of genetic marker present in U.S. beef and dairy
cattle is the "single nucleotide polymorphism" or SNP. The scientists have
already identified 122 specialized parentage SNPs and annotated more than 1,600
neighboring SNPs. This knowledge has increased the accuracy of parentage and
Using genetic markers, scientists can generate molecular fingerprints
to match multiple samples from one animal. DNA-based technology is an effective
complement to physical markerssuch as brands, tattoos, tags and
implantsand can clearly identify animals in situations in which physical
markers cannot. DNA can be obtained and analyzed from cattle at any stage of
life, as well as from fresh, frozen or cooked products. It's stable and
completely unique to each animal.
Since 2003, USMARC researchers have identified over 7,000 bovine SNPs
and placed them in the public domain where they can be accessed by researchers
around the world.
Over the last decade, technological advances have made SNP
identification easier and cheaper. Today the testing procedure typically costs
about 2 to 20 cents per SNP, but it could eventually decrease to less than 1
cent. Lower costs could enhance animal health and food safety by promoting
widespread use of SNP genotyping in cattle.
more about this research in the January 2007 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.