subject: DNA

Genomic Selection Accelerates Improvements in Health and Productivity of Dairy Cows

Genomic Selection Accelerates Improvements in Health and Productivity of Dairy Cows

The introduction of genomic selection into dairy cattle selective breeding programs has been greatly anticipated and is a remarkable example of the benefits of genomic technology. Made possible because the systems for selective breeding were already well developed in dairy, and the widespread use of artificial insemination meant that new developments could be delivered quickly. First introduced in the USA in 2008, there has now been sufficient time to generate enough data to assess its impact. Read More...

Breastfeeding Protects Women Against Cancer

Breastfeeding Protects Women Against Cancer

Cancer cure or prevention? An enormous amount of research and funding is channeled into finding a cure for cancer, yet less attention is paid to factors that prevent it. Certainly, there is not one magical practice to prevent cancer, as research shows that our cancer risk is influenced by many factors, one of which is breastfeeding. Read More...

Ancient Aurochs Genome Contains the DNA Blueprint for Modern Cattle

Ancient Aurochs Genome Contains the DNA Blueprint for Modern Cattle

A preserved specimen of aurochs bone was discovered deep beneath the Derbyshire Dales in the UK in the 1990s. Aurochs are an ancient cattle breed domesticated around 10,000 years ago somewhere around modern day Iran. In Europe, the last of these animals were still found on a Polish royal reserve as recently as the 17th century. Park et al., have now extracted enough DNA from the ancient bone specimen to sequence the aurochs genome. When they compared the aurochs sequence to the DNA of cattle breeds we know and use in domestic agriculture today, they found a surprisingly high level in common with British and Irish cattle. Read More...

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Back in the 50s and 60s, work on lactose intolerance was often published under cringeworthy and blunt racial titles. A Nature article from 1969 sums it up with ‘Can Asians Digest Milk?’ It was also probably a subliminal non-accident that ‘lactose intolerance’—which is the typical condition for adult humans—became common parlance for a trait for which those with northern European ancestry are the real mutants. Many decades on, the genetic basis of the ability to digest lactose has been largely pinned down. As it turns out, there are different genetic reasons for the mutants’ lactose tolerance in the various populations that drink milk without intestinal incident, and the gene that confers mutant power in Europeans is only part of the story. That research history is discussed below, along with recent work that has extended the field’s reach beyond genetics. Investigations of the transcontinental basis of lactose tolerance are now providing insights into mankind’s cultural, as well as biological evolution. Read More...

Producing Human Milk Sugars for Use in Formula

Producing Human Milk Sugars for Use in Formula

It’s well known that human milk is good for you (1-5). Sugars, called oligosaccharides, form the third largest component of human milk and have been associated with many beneficial effects. These human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) have been shown to influence the composition of the gut microbiome, modulate the immune system, and help protect against pathogens (6-11, 22) Given the various benefits of HMOs, there has been a lot of interest in figuring out how to introduce HMOs into formula. However, more than 200 human milk oligosaccharides have been discovered so far, and their variety and complexity makes them challenging to synthesize (21-23). Read More...

The Amazing Mammary Memory

The Amazing Mammary Memory

Any dairy farmer or lactation consultant knows that first-time mothers don’t produce as much milk. The peak daily production for a first calf heifer may be around 70 lbs of milk while the same animal on its second lactation can produce 90 lbs of milk daily. Somehow the mammary gland seems to remember how to make milk and does a better job the second time. Why is that? Read More...

Making Sense of Dairy Biosystems

Making Sense of Dairy Biosystems

We live in an information-rich world. Each of us is capable of downloading gigabytes of data on our mobile or desktop devices each day. The upswing in data generation is also true of dairy science, which has moved into the big data realm. My students can create more data in an afternoon than I created in an entire PhD project when I was a student. Needless to say, capturing and analyzing this data is both challenging and rewarding. Since genomic data became more accessible, a number of approaches have been developed to bring the data together in useful ways. Gradually these approaches have become more sophisticated and insightful. A recent study by Widmann et al. provides a great example of how integrating different sources of large-scale genomic data can shed light on how dairy cows convert their feed into milk. Read More...

Predicting Performance in Dairy Cows of the Future

Predicting Performance in Dairy Cows of the Future

Selective breeding of dairy cows is a major part of modern dairy farming. Farmers can select the bulls that they want to use to produce animals for their herd. One bull may sire thousands of daughter cows via highly developed systems for artificial insemination. The availability of lots of stored semen from bulls that have been shown to produce cows with excellent production and health traits has been a backbone of improving efficiency and production in dairy farms for several decades. There has been a continuous effort to build on the methods and procedures that contribute to selective breeding, most recently with the advent of genomic tools. Read More...

Milk Protein in Diet Predicts Human Height

Milk Protein in Diet Predicts Human Height

The Dutch and Montenegrins are the tallest men in Europe, measuring in at an average height of just over six feet (1.83 m). Separated by nearly 2000 miles, what might these two countries have in common that explains their above-average stature? The results of a new study [1] suggest their height may have as much to do with what is on their dinner plate as what is in their DNA. Using data from 42 European nations, as well as the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia, Grasgruber et al. [1] found that the strongest predictor of male adult height was the population’s protein index - the amount of protein consumed from animal sources, such as dairy and pork, compared to proteins consumed from vegetable sources, such as wheat. If height is a marker for the health of a population, could the answer to improving health outcomes be as simple as dining like the Dutch? Read More...

Towards Individualized Genomes for Dairy Cows

Towards Individualized Genomes for Dairy Cows

International cooperation between scientists has really taken off in genomic sciences, and now, in a program that has grown out of dairy genetic research, one thousand bulls are set to be immortalized by having their DNA sequenced. The so-called 1000 Bulls Genome Project is an international collaboration between scientists in Europe, USA, and Australia. The project began in 2010, when scientists were looking for a way to share the huge cost of sequencing many entire genomes. The result was the 1000 Bulls Genome Project, which spreads the costs and shares the resources to help geneticists apply their collective knowledge of cattle to improve the productivity of cattle herds. Read More...