U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists have developed the firstgenetic maps for cattle, sheep and swine, Agriculture Secretary MikeEspy announced this week.

The maps, which have been under development since January 1992,each contain several hundred markers and are based on a combinedtotal of more than 100,000 genotypes, Craig Beatty told BioWorld. Heis the leader of the Gene Mapping Group at the Agricultural ResearchService's Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska.

Researchers will use the markers as the basis to link economicallyuseful traits such as disease resistance, leanness or tenderness.

The maps will be accessible to outside researchers through an on-linedata base beginning in March. "It's an interactive data base thatallows an investigator to access raw data rather than compile data,"said Beatty. For example, an outside investigator could use the database to help determine the position of a structural gene.

As useful genes are filled in it will become possible to determine thegenotype of the animals so ranchers can improve breeding. "Butyou've got to have biotechnology companies that can do the testingand have the probes for the livestock industry, or you will never getthe technology implemented," Dan Laster, the center's director, toldBioWorld.

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.