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Chicken Genome Is Sequenced

By Edward R. Winstead

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Red Jungle Fowl.
Scientists have sequenced the genome of the chicken, completing the one-year project on schedule but with a new sense of urgency because of recent outbreaks of bird flu that have affected millions of chickens worldwide.

The chicken genome isn’t likely to answer questions about the bird flu or yield immediate solutions. But in the years ahead researchers can hunt for genes in chickens that may protect against certain types of infections or make a bird susceptible to a virus.

The chicken, the Red Jungle Fowl, is the first bird to have its genome sequenced. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis sequenced the bird, which is the ancestor of domestic chickens.

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As is now standard practice for many newly sequenced organisms, the team, led by Richard Wilson, also aligned the chicken genome with the human genome. Comparing two different species is a way to identify previously unknown genes and DNA sequences that control genes, which can sometimes be difficult to find.

The chicken genome sequence has been deposited in GenBank, the online DNA database. The U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute spent $13 million on the project.

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