Chicken genome analysis will benefit human health and agriculture

EAST LANSING, Mich. We may soon be thanking Michigan State University chicken No. 256 for better treatments or even new vaccines for the flu and other human ailments.

As the first bird and the first agricultural animal to have its genome sequenced, the chicken is paving the way for research on human diseases, as well as studies on chicken breeding to benefit agriculture. An international consortium of scientists that includes a researcher from Michigan State University analyzed the chicken genome and published a paper in the Dec. 9 issue of the British science journal Nature.

The first draft of the chicken genome was placed into free public databases for use by researchers around the world in March 2004.

The bird whose genome was sequenced, a red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) known by her wing band number, 256, still lives on the MSU campus in a facility that serves the lab of Jerry Dodgson, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at MSU, who has worked on mapping the chicken genome for the past 17 years. At 7, she's quite old for a chicken and is oblivious to the importance of her contributions to science.

No. 256 was chosen as the genome model because she's from an inbred line; this makes her genome more uniform than non-inbred chickens. Also, red jungle fowl represents the wild type species from which all domestic chickens came. A female was chosen because female birds contain a sex chromosome (called W) that male birds lack. She also provided DNA used to create recombinant DNA clone maps of the chicken genome. Those maps provided the framework for the much more detailed genome sequence assembly.

"Chickens and humans are, in some cases, infected by the same viruses, bacteria and parasites," said Dodgson, one of the coordinators of the International Chicken Genome Sequencing Consortium, which sequenced and analyzed the red jungle fowl genome. "The research shows that chickens and humans share more t

Contact: Jerry Dodgson
517-355-6463 1556
Michigan State University

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