Scientists announced that they have mapped the entire genome of the domestic pig, revealing that besides providing tasty bacon and sausages, the animal may also be useful in fighting human diseases.
The study published in the journal Nature found that pigs and humans
share more than 100 DNA mutations that have previously been linked
to diseases like obesity, diabetes, dyslexia, Parkinson's and
Alzheimer's, according to US and European researchers.
"In total, we found 112 positions where the porcine protein has the
same amino acid that is implicated in a disease in humans,"
Researchers said that because pigs share many of the same complex
genetic diseases as humans, the animals would serve as excellent
models for studying the underlying biology of human disease.
A domestic pig breed is already being used extensively in medical
research because of its anatomical similarity to humans, and pig
heart valves have been used by doctors to replace faulty human ones.
Scientists can use the new genome map to improve meat production by
breeding a new generation of super-pigs that will grow faster,
survive longer, produce more offspring and yield more meat for less
"This new analysis helps us understand the genetic mechanisms that
enable high-quality pork production, feed efficiency and resistance
to disease," Sonny Ramaswany, director of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture said,
according to Reuters.
Scientists in the sequencing project compared the domestic pig's
genome to that of the wild boar, human, mouse, dog, horse, and cow.
A recent study also revealed that pigs had the most olfactory
receptor genes, which highlights the importance of smell in the
scavenger animal's lifestyle, and that pigs also had fewer bitter
taste receptors meaning that "pigs can eat food that is unpalatable
to humans," which is one of the reasons why pigs have become such a
highly valued farm animal. I am still trying to figure out how
they will know if a pig has Alzheimer's.