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Scientists Complete Chicken Genome

Could help in development of flu vaccines, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- There's quite a bit of clucking going on at Michigan State University: they have just sequenced the genome of a chicken.

That's a first for birds and agricultural animals in the world of genetic sequencing, and it could help scientists develop better treatments for human ailments, such as new flu vaccines. In addition, the chicken's genome could also lead to improved chicken breeding techniques.

A team of international scientists analyzed the genome of the red jungle fowl. Their findings appear in the Dec. 9 issue of Nature.

Chicken No. 256 was selected as the genome model because it was from an inbred line, which makes the genome more uniform than that of non-inbred chickens.

"Chickens and humans are, in some cases, infected by the same viruses, bacteria and parasites," Jerry Dodgson, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, said in a prepared statement.

"The research shows that chickens and humans share more than half of their genes. The chicken genome sequence is expected to help us uncover genes that enhance natural disease resistance in birds. Then we can see if those same genes are in humans," said Dodgson, one of the coordinators of the International Chicken Genome Sequencing Consortium.

Chicken No. 256's genome may also help poultry scientists learn why some chickens lay more eggs than others or why certain broiler chickens have less fat than others.

"The chicken genome fills a crucial gap in our scientific knowledge," Francis S. Collins, director of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute, said in a prepared statement.

"Located between mammals and fish on the tree of life, the chicken is well positioned to provide us with new insights into genome evolution and human biology. By comparing the genomes of a wide range of animals, we can better understand the structure and function of human genes and, ultimately, develop new strategies to improve human health," Collins explained.

More information

The National Human Genome Research Institute has information about the Human Genome Project.

SOURCE: Michigan State University, news release, Dec. 8, 2004
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