A Utah State University (USU) administrator has won nearly $1 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding to continue research on the sheep genome--work that could help breed better animals.
USU Vice President for Extension and Agriculture and Dean of the College of Agriculture Noelle E. Cockett, Ph.D., will use the $930,000 award from the USDA and the Food Research Initiative to help on a project to map the entire sheep genome.
Her effort, "Assembly of the Ovine Whole Genome Reference Sequence," will generate large amounts of DNA sequence from a single animal, which will then be assembled so it covers at least 95 percent of the sheep genome.
"This is an important research project," said Ken White, animal, dairy and veterinary sciences department head. "The outcome of her project will accelerate genetic research in sheep and other ruminant animals."
According to White, the completed information will be a reference and a resource for other researchers who study the sheep gene sequence and also enable them to better compare the sheep gene sequence to other species such as humans, mice and cattle.
Another purpose is targeting genes that make better meat and wool and protect against disease.
"This is great news for the U.S. sheep industry. The results of this effort will also pay big dividends to the future of sheep production globally," commented Glen Fisher (Texas), president of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). "Funding for genomics research and specifically sheep genome sequencing continues to be one of ASI's top priorities."
The bovine gene sequence has already been mapped at the Baylor College of Medicine, and the data is helping improve the nutritional value of beef and dairy products. Researchers also gained knowledge of mammalian evolution from the work.
A long-time USU employee, Cockett has an international reputation in genetic research, serving as U.S. coordinator for the sheep gene mapping project since 1993.
Reprinted from The Herald Journal, Logan, Utah