Researchers find genes that can help create more elastic chickens
THE PARK UNIVERSITY, PA. – An international team of scientists, led by Penn State researchers, identifies genes that can help farmers, especially those in low- and middle-income countries, to grow chickens that can confront one of the biggest threats to faces poultry today.
In the study, the researchers found that a group of genes, differentiated into two races of chickens, could be struggling to varying degrees Newcastle disease, a virus that hinders poultry production around the world.
Identifying the genes that help chickens survive Newcastle disease could help design breeding strategies that produce flocks that are more resilient and more productive, according to Vivek Kapoor, life science professor and Huck, a prominent president in Global Health , Associate Director of the Hack Life Sciences Institute, and Institute of CyberScience Associate, all in Penn State.
"These local chick-eating habits have been running through the yards for hundreds of years, even under constant exposure to Newcastle disease, so evolutionarily there is something innate that allowed them to survive in this environment where the disease is endemic," said Capur. "However, birds reared for high productivity, as is the case with high-income countries, they quickly put weight, produce many eggs – their survival in the presence of infectious diseases was not chosen because there is Genomics and sophisticated analytical tools, we asked if there are differences in specific genes expressed in chickens in the yard, which markers for lower susceptibility to Newcastle disease infection. "
If the Newcastle disease is present in the herd, the result can be disastrous, according to Megan A. Schilling, the lead author of the study and who recently defended his doctoral dissertation in the molecular, cellular and integrative bioscience program at the Penn State Huck Life Sciences institutes.
"Newcastle disease is an important poultry pathogen," Schilling said. "Maybe you have not heard much about this disease in the United States, because it's generally well controlled, but it's endemic in many African and Asian countries." If a viral virus is brought into the flock, it will eradicate the flock and cause a significant economic burden, especially for farmers with small agricultural products. "
There is a vaccine for this disease, but it is not used in many countries, as logistics and costs involved often prevent the use of vaccination to protect small herds in many countries, Kapoor said.
"If you have 20 chickens in your yard, for example, you must first find someone to come to give your herd vaccine and there will be included the cost throughout the process, although the vaccine should be available," said Capur. "Barriers, both realistic and perceptive, are therefore quite high for farmers in the yards to vaccinate their chickens."
The researchers, who published their findings in the recent edition of the Scientific reports, used an innovative technique for the study of the innate immune response to two breeds of chickens, Fayoumi and Leghorn. Instead of using animal studies, or cell lines, researchers used chicken embryos. Because the chicken immune system becomes sustainable in the egg before slaughter, researchers have a window to study the immune system genes, which offers several advantages over other methods, Schilling said.
"Generally, these types of studies are performed in cell lines that are great for advancing in our understanding of science, but they do not affect the whole organism's response to the pathogen," Schilling said. "On the other hand, you have studies for animals that are expensive and you have a lot of involved livestock and bio-safety is a factor that can reduce the samples precisely because of those costs or logistics constraints."
While Newcastle disease is not considered a major threat to the United States at the moment, it could change for Americans who grow chickens as hobbyists and for large poultry production, according to researchers. A recent occurrence of Newcastle disease in Southern California has caused the death of more than 1.2 million hens.
This study, which was funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of the Program for Strengthening the Health and Productivity of Livestock, is just part of a larger research initiative, Capur said.
The research team included: Sugar Memari, a biology student; Meredith Cavano, graduate scientist in biotechnology; Robab Katani, postdoctoral scientist and project manager, Hack Institute of Life Sciences and Laboratory for Applied Biological and Biological Security, and Jessica Raja-Basu, Assistant Scientific Researcher, Huck Institute of Life Sciences and Laboratory for Applied Biological and Biological Analysis, State of Penn ; Susan J. Lamont, Charles F. Curtis Dear Professor of Animal Sciences and Melissa S. Deist, scientific scientist, honest scientist and former assistant professor of genetics and genetics, like the State University of Iowa; and Joram Buza, Professor, School of Life Sciences and Bioengineering, African Institute of Science and Technology, Nelson Mandela.
The National Institute of Agriculture and Agriculture (USDA) also supported this work (awarded to Susan J. Lamont).
This story is posted on: 2019-06-14. To contact the author, use the contact details in the article.
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