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Genetics, In the News

A guide to your Thanksgiving dinner's DNA

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Talk about food for thought: A web gallery posted yesterday on Discover details what researchers have learned from sequencing the genomes of turkeys, corn, potatoes, cranberries and other holiday foods.

While most of the research was completed for agricultural use, a researcher quoted in the piece says that turkey could be useful for studying cancer. Emily Anthes writes:

The domesticated turkey is highly vulnerable to cancer-“probably the most susceptible animal known to science,” says Roger Coulombe, a veterinary scientist and toxicologist at Utah State University. Several years ago Coulombe and his colleagues discovered that, in the process of domesticating turkeys, humans concentrated a genetic mutation that makes the birds extremely sensitive to carcinogens. The new turkey genome, published in September, will provide Coulombe and other researchers with a new level of detail about the offending genetic mutation and the DNA sequences that regulate it. “There’s going to be some real spinoffs for the biomedical aspect of this,” Coulombe says, adding that he’s looking forward to increasing the “understanding of human susceptibility to cancer using the turkey. It can teach us a lot about human disease.”

Photo by cherrylet

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