Taylor and Dave Patterson, a professor of animal science and state beef extension specialist at MU, will lead the research team as they attempt to identify, or “sequence,” the 24,000 genes in each animal. The researchers will be looking for mutations in the genetic code that lead to early embryonic loss. Scientists also could use this basic sequence information to address feed efficiency, disease resistance and growth.Looking at Genes
“Typically an animal has two copies of a gene, so that if one gene is unable to function due to a mutation, the second gene functions normally and keeps the animal in a healthy state,” Patterson said. “However, when both copies of a gene are mutated so that they cannot function, the effect may be lethal and the embryo will fail to implant or will terminate during gestation. If we can find those problem mutations, we can develop a solution. It’s just tough to find a solution when you don’t know the problem you’re facing.”
Taylor said the grant builds on research previously conducted or currently underway at MU supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In his past work, Taylor has developed technology that can quickly allow scientists to examine hundreds of thousands of points on an animal’s genome and generate precise estimates of genetic merit for carcass traits, feed efficiency and respiratory disease susceptibility. Currently, Taylor is using this technology to develop genetic predictions for different breeds of cattle for feed efficiency and respiratory disease, a health problem that leads to $700 million in losses each year in the cattle industry.
The grant will be awarded over five years, up to $600,000 each year. In addition to other MU researchers, Patterson and Taylor will be collaborating with scientists from the University of California-Davis, Oklahoma State University and the University of New England in Australia.