Pig gene discovery could help combat animal, human disease

Insights into the genetic code of pigs that reveal how the species evolved could improve the health of animals in future. Researchers compared the genome of domestic pigs with those of wild boars - from which domestic pigs are descended.

Their study found significant genetic differences between wild boar from Asia and Europe, which split from a common ancestor around a million years ago.

The mapping, sequencing and annotation teams at the Sanger Institute were key players in the international consortium to sequence and analyse the genome of the domestic pig. The results were published in Nature on Thursday 15 November.

The Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium supported the genome sequencing project, the bulk of which was carried out at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The project produced a high-quality draft sequence of a domesticated pig breed.

The scientists identified about 21,000 genes in the pig genome and compared these genes to their counterparts in human, mice, dogs, horses and cows to provide an understanding of both evolution and swine biology.

"The Sanger Institute mapping and cytogenetics, sequencing and annotation teams played a vital role in developing this important science," says Carol Churcher, who led the pig genome work at the Sanger Institute. "Our standards of sequence production have led to a high-quality genome from which our annotation team and collaborators have uncovered so much about the biology written in the pig genome."