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12 Advances in Livestock Genomics: Opening the Barn Door

James E. Womack


The human genome project is properly credited with accelerating the discovery of disease genes and providing a totally new paradigm for medical research. It has sharpened our approach to the study of development, behavior, cancer, and infectious diseases, and provided a toolbox for deciphering genetic diversity and human origins. It probably does not get enough credit, however, for opening the door for genetic analysis of other animals, particularly those species used in agriculture. Livestock genomics has followed in the footsteps of the human genome initiative, adopting both its successful strategies and technologies to advance our understanding of livestock genomes with shoestring budgets relative to the resources available for human and medical research. In turn, livestock genomics contributes to informing the human genome. Mapping and sequencing species from clades other than primates and rodents contribute to our understanding of evolutionary history and its underlying mechanisms. As demonstrated by Thomas et al. (2003) and others, sequences from these diverse clades contribute to the identification of functional elements in the human genome outside the more easily annotated coding regions.

In addition to informing the human genome, agricultural science has a unique responsibility to human health and social stability, and that is feeding an expanding world population while minimizing environmental and ecological risks. Clearly, the identification of variation in livestock genomes that predisposes health and productivity with less reliance on hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides will be a major step in meeting this global challenge. A review of recent advances in livestock genomics and their...

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