Comprehensive pig genomes could advance animal gene editing—and help produce more bacon

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For the first time, scientists have decoded the whole genetic make-up of pigs in a development that they say will facilitate the discovery of genetic variations linked to key traits.

The scientists characterized the genomes of two different pigs – a sow from the Duroc breed and a male crossbred white composite boar, and included detailed information of a further 11 pigs from European and Asian breeds.

The findings could help improve selective breeding and enable more accurate use of gene-editing technologies to develop pigs with desired characteristics, such as resistance to infectious diseases, the researchers said.

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Knowledge of the genome also enables identification of genetic similarities between pigs and humans, which will enhance biomedical research in which pigs are used as models to study human health.

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Alan Archibald, UK study lead and personal chair of mammalian molecular genetics at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, said: “Pork is the most popular of all meats and, with a growing global population, we need to improve the sustainability of food production.

“The improved knowledge of pigs’ genetic make-up will help farmers breed healthier and more productive animals.”

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