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Sheep gene insights could help farmers breed healthier animals

Fresh insights into the genetic code of sheep could aid breeding programmes to improve their health and productivity.

Sheep in a field

Scientists have mapped which genes are turned on and off in the different tissues and organs in a sheep’s body.

Their findings shed new light on the animal’s complex biology, including insight into the function of genes linked to immunity and meat quality.

Researchers at The Roslin Institute focused on genetic material called RNA, which is produced as an intermediate step when DNA code is translated into the proteins and molecules that make up cells and tissues.

Their results represent a major step towards understanding how the sheep’s genetic information influences its physical traits. These insights could eventually inform animal breeding programmes aimed at improving farmers’ stocks.

 

New database

An online database has been created from the results, which is freely accessible to scientists working anywhere in the world. The researchers hope this resource will help to further understanding of the sheep’s genetic make-up.

 

Sheep are a central part of the rural economy in the UK and are essential to sustainable agriculture across the globe.  The new resource represents a major step towards understanding how the sheep’s genetic information influences its physical traits, and provides a foundation to use this information to generate sustainable improvements in the productivity of livestock animals.

Dr Emily ClarkThe Roslin Institute