July 2005 -- Researchers in the United States, Australia, Britain and New Zealand will work together to map the genome (genetic composition) of sheep, which could improve meat and fiber production as well as animal health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on May 16.
?This project will make research in sheep genetics and genomics more efficient. Rather than spending time on developing a physical map for each and every project that comes along, the map will be available so researchers can get right to the task of their own study,? says Noelle Cockett, Ph.D., interim provost at Utah State University (USU).
USU is the lead institution in this International Sheep Genome Sequencing Consortium, which was provided $1 million in 2005 by the USDA. This is the second National Research Initiative grant awarded to Cockett. She also received a $395,000 grant in 2002 for the development of a sheep genome radiation hybrid map.
The United Kingdom?s Genesis Faraday and Meat and Livestock Australia also provided funding for this project.
?This funding is essential for developing the sheep physical map. It was only by committing the funds from a variety of sources that we were able to finance the project and have the whole map within a year or so,? says Cockett.
?Mapping the sheep genome will lead to advances in food and fiber production and identification of important traits in animal health and disease resistance,? states USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics, Joseph Jen, Ph.D. ?International collaborations like these are vital for promoting worldwide use and understanding of important scientific information.?
?A map of the sheep genome will offer enormous possibilities for pin-pointing genetic controls for economically important production traits, as well as disease issues,? commented Lyndon Irwin, Ph.D., chair of the American Sheep Industry Association?s Research and Education Council.
The consortium expects to complete an initial map by March 31, 2006, but funding will continue through June 2008 for appropriate analysis of the map.