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Cattle DNA mapped, better beef comes next

SCIENTISTS have mapped the genetic blueprint of domestic cattle for the first time, saying on Thursday the map may lead to tastier beef, better milk and even new insights about human health.

The Hereford cow's genetic sequence is the first mapped livestock animal sequence, and the researchers think it will help explain how cattle evolved, why they ended up with a four-chambered stomach, and why they almost never get cancer.

"Having the genome sequence is now the window to understanding how these changes occurred," said Harris Lewin of the University of Illinois, who worked on the research published in two reports in the journal Science.

Lewin was part of the Bovine Genome Sequencing Project, a group of more than 300 scientists from 25 countries who worked six years to complete the genetic sequence of the beef cow.

"The mammals we have looked at previously have been laboratory animals and humans," Kim Worley of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said. "This is the first mammalian livestock animal we have studied."

They discovered the cattle genome contains at least 22,000 genes, 80 percent of which are shared with humans. And the team found cattle have far more in common genetically with humans than do mice or rats, and might make better subjects for studying human health.

Comparisons of the domestic cattle genome sequence to those of the human, dog, mouse and rat reveal new insights about the human genome.

"The most exciting result that we have is the discovery of the really species-specific genome features. Those features of the genome that tell us more of what makes a cow a cow, a horse a horse, a sheep a sheep and what makes a human a human," Lewin said.


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