LONDON -A study by Synomics, has identified a pathway for improving egg weights in laying hens by analysing variations within specific genes, then targeting birds for selected breeding.
Egg weight varies between 50 and 70g depending on the age of the hen and its genotype. Egg weight is a heritable trait with genetics playing a key role; it’s also hugely important when it comes to farmers’ profitability.
Synomics used a development of a platform proven in human science to analyse data from more than 1,000 laying hens which each had more than 295,000 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs).
Whereas genes are easy to find, and contain 100s of SNPs, being able to single out the SNPs that sit inside or outside the genes orchestrating the gene function and, crucially, regulating associated traits (in this case egg weight) is the holy grail.
It is these SNPs that provide the pathway for identifying animals that can be grown or bred to be healthier, more disease resistant, or deliver higher yields. An added benefit is that these insights can also empower scientists with the information to develop new drugs and treatments.
Identifying a small number of high-impact SNPs is much more valuable to scientists than simply identifying a large number of SNPs. By applying Synomics’ platform, scientists can target genes for intervention with more certainty and bring products/solutions to market more rapidly and at less expense.
Current practices are limited to looking at the impact of each individual SNP, but scientists know that many traits are the result of SNPs acting in complex combinations. Synomics can analyse and map these combinations, identifying previously disregarded high impact SNPs.
Synomics detected 2,018 highly predictive SNPs which mapped to 122 genes as targets for intervention. When it’s considered that a hen could have upwards of 20,000 genes, narrowing down the search to 122 that lead to heavier eggs, has an obvious impact on the speed of future research.
Peter Kristensen, CEO of Synomics, says Synomics is the ‘missing link’ between the raw data that farmers and scientists hold and a company’s own research team: “We are giving scientists, farmers and food producers the ability to learn more about the animals they breed and the crops that they grow with insights they have not been previously able to liberate from the data they already hold.”