Rapid advances in genetic research

January 11, 2009 06:00 PM

Since the first draft of the bovine genome sequence was released in October 2004, genetic research and development has progressed, seemingly at warp speed. Overall, it is a "good news” story as researchers unravel the mysteries of DNA and better understand the genetic makeup of cattle. But with the good also comes some bad and Arthrogryposis Multiplex is one of the recent genetic disorders researchers have discovered.

Jonathan Beever is a geneticist working with the American Angus Association to develop a diagnostic test that identifies carriers of Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM).  He is an associate professor of animal science University of Illinois and operates the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics in the animal science department.

"We've worked on four genetic defects in the last two or three years that came from bulls that were used 10 to 20 years ago. We're just now identifying these defects because we're finally able to develop the tests. Another reason is that we now have enough offspring for the defects to show up in the population,” says Beever.
He determined the gene that causes AM in Angus and Angus composites and developed a genetic test to identify AM carriers of the disease in only a few months. 
In addition to AM, Beever has helped identify Tibial Hemimelia in Shorthorn and Shorthorn composites, Pulmonary Hypoplasia with Anasarca in Maine-Anjou and Maine-Anjou composites, Idiopathic Epilepsy in Herefords, and Hypotrichosis in Hereford and Simmental cattle.
It is an exciting time to be a geneticist, he says, and it will be even more interesting in the next 10 years. 
"We're not only finding things wrong with animals, but also finding things right such as genes that control performance or meat quality traits. It will be fascinating to learn what we'll discover,” says Beever. 

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