April 6, 2007
April 6, 2007 - Sheep gene research at Australia's University of Adelaide's Roseworthy Campus aimed at helping maximize wool production for Australian producers has shed light on a human genetic hair and skin disorder.
Ph.D. student Hayley McGrice won this year's South Australian Research & Development Institute's (SARDI) Suffrage Science Bursary for her research into the genes and molecular signals that affect wool follicle formation in lambs.
Her research used novel techniques to investigate which specific genes are turned on and off during key points of the wool follicle formation. Two of the genes measured in this way are known to be important in the human genetic condition, ectodermal dysplasia. People with this genetic condition are often born with extremely sparse hair and have abnormal or missing teeth and poorly developed sweat glands.
"Wool follicles are only initiated once during any mammal's life, so if we can determine which genes or pathways are responsible, we can manipulate the development of follicles - perhaps producing many more wool follicles - so as to maximize the lifetime wool producing potential of sheep," McGrice said. "This type of fundamental research into genes and their interactions may lead to pharmaceuticals or food additives being identified that are shown to increase the amount of wool produced and the rate of fleece growth."
"This is an example of the great things that can happen when you have the right tools and resources available for researchers to use," stated Ronnie Green, Ph.D., national program leader with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.
"We are hopeful the resources will be available to fully sequence the sheep genome in the next couple years providing a powerful tool for additional genetic advancement in the sheep industry," continued Green. "This discovery is just the tip of the iceberg."
"Genomic research can provide solutions to economically important sheep production problems and eradicate diseases while at the same time, as is the case here, make scientific discoveries that could also lead to improving the quality of life for people," concluded Green.
The importance of research for sheep industries worldwide is evident by the inclusion of a research clause in the Tri-Lamb Group Memorandum of Understanding stating the intent to enhance the mutual cooperation in the area of sheep and sheepmeat research and development. The Tri-Lamb Group is a working group of sheep industry leaders from the United States, Australia and New Zealand who are working to enhance the profitability and sustainability of the lamb market. Reprinted in part from newswise.com