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Why we sequence genomes
Every part of our bodies and every action of our cells is exquisitely controlled by the billion base pairs that make up our DNA. These nucleotides are the building blocks of genes, the part of the genome that holds the information our cells turn into proteins.
Since the first gene was suggested by Gregor Mendel in the 1860s, scientists have been searching for ways to decode them, to figure out how this code creates the end product: An organism. That organism can be an animal, plant, virus or bacteria that lives, reproduces and spreads its genome. Uncovering the secrets locked in each species' genomes will teach researchers how to harness the power of genes, from the longevity of the naked mole rate and the fat processing abilities of the orangutan.
Dozens of animal, plant and microbe genomes have been sequenced. Here are LiveScience's favorite 10 genome projects.
Culturing cowSlide 2 of 21
Itching for a tastier slice of beef? Look no further than the cow's genome. After being sequenced in 2009, analysis of the cow's genes could lead to higher quality milk and better beef and tells an interesting tale of how human domestication has impacted the evolution of the once-wild animal.
The analysis of the cow's 22,000 genes has also shown that while we humans are more closely related to rodents than to cows in terms of the family tree, our genome more closely resembles those of cows because the tiny lifespan of rodents requires them to have many more babies in a much quicker timeframe, accelerating evolution.
The cows also have many additional immune system genes, ones that could defend against pathogens that live in their extra stomachs. Analysis of other breeds also determined that the cows showed specific patterns of genetic changes depending on whether they were breed for meat or milk.Slide 3 of 21
First amphibian, the African clawed frogSlide 4 of 21
First amphibian, the African clawed frog
The first amphibian genome to be sequenced belongs to the frog Xenopus tropicalis, a slimy rotund amphibian also known as the African clawed frog. The genome study enables researchers to compare genes in mammals to those of the amphibians to see which genes stay the same and which have changed since mammals and amphibians parted 360 million years ago, which pinpoints the important basic genes that all complex life needs, including genes involved in the heart and lungs.Slide 5 of 21
The tasty turkeySlide 6 of 21
The tasty turkey
The turkey genome was published in the journal PLoS One in November of 2010, just in time for the Thanksgiving meal! The turkey clocked in at 1.1 billion base pairs, about a third the size of the human genome, and bears a close resemblance to its relative, the chicken, whose genome was completed in 2004.
This work could lead to meatier, healthier birds, according to the researchers, by providing a better understanding of the turkey's muscles and taste and can help farmers improve disease resistance and treatment.Slide 7 of 21
Our cousin the orangutanSlide 8 of 21