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Finding a Genetic Solution for Chicken Disease

To meet the growing demands of consumers, new poultry breeding programs have greatly increased production of chicken, which is now the most popular meat consumed in the U.S. However, with high-density chicken rearing, controlling infectious diseases has become a challenge.

Among poultry diseases, Marek’s Disease, a T-cell cancer caused by the Marek’s Disease virus, continues to be at or near the top of the list of concerns of poultry producers. And while the main control strategy for Marek’s Disease – vaccination – effectively prevents the disease, it does not prevent viral infection or shedding. This allows the virus to evolve and increase in virulence.

One, long-term, sustainable alternative to vaccination is being pursued by Hans Cheng, adjunct associate professor, USDA—ARS Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory. The goal of Cheng and his lab is to increase genetic resistance to Marke’s Disease. To accomplish this task, large quantities of DNA or RNA are sequenced in order to characterize the genome or the transcripts of the individual. This information is then analyzed to identify genes and pathways that confer Marek’s Disease resistance, which can be used in poultry breeding programs.

The approach requires analysis of large amounts of data, using the advanced capabilities of MSU’s High Performance Computing Center (HPCC).

– Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research (ICER)

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