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Warren E. Johnson, PhD, D02LA-18, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland
Genetic maps are useful in studying which genes are linked to inherited traits and related topics such as infectious diseases, reproduction physiology, behavior, nutrition and evolutionary history. Genetic maps for humans, dogs and mice have increased the knowledge of these species; however, few genetic resources have been developed for camelids. This study
is developing a map of the alpaca genome, which will help investigators identify inherited traits in these animals. A better understanding of these traits will immediately provide a benefit to the health of individual animals and entire herd management. A genetic map also opens the doors for future studies that will increase the knowledge of camelids.
Researchers developed several molecular genetic tools that will be used to further alpaca research. These included development of a radiation hybrid panel for mapping of genetic markers, which provides a preliminary map for analyzing relationships between alpaca, human and cow genomes, and development of probes for comparative cytogenetic analyses. These tools led to the alpaca being chosen by the National Cancer Institute for whole genome sequencing, a process that will be completed in 2007. This has led to the commitment of additional resources for alpaca research and has increased the number of researchers embarking on camelid research projects worldwide. Future identification of genes and mutations will be critically important to alpaca breeders and researchers.