Did You Know… Genetics Research Will Improve Alpaca Health

Did you know that alpacas were domesticated in South America thousands of years ago? These gentle, friendly herd animals are part of the camelid family, which also includes camels, llamas, vicuña and guanacos. 

Despite the alpaca’s lengthy relationship with humans, little is known about their health and genetics compared to other domestic species. With funding from Morris Animal Foundation, Dr. Terje Raudsepp, an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at Texas A&M University, is gaining valuable insight that could help us learn more about inherited diseases in these animals. The most common congenital diseases in alpacas are facial and cardiac defects.

Dr. Raudsepp specializes in animal genome analysis, including how individual genes are associated with inherited disorders. With a previous grant from the Foundation, she and her team generated a cytogenetic map that identified molecular markers for all alpaca chromosomes. These markers are valuable for cytogenetic counseling and for making informed decisions about veterinary treatments and breeding.

With a current grant, Dr. Raudsepp is enhancing the knowledge about the structure and function of the alpaca genome. Her research will generate molecular tools for better managing genetic disorders and diseases and for identifying important genetic traits in alpacas and other camelids.

Advanced genome maps in humans and livestock have led to major health-related breakthroughs. Having an advanced genome map could do the same for alpacas and will benefit other camelid species as well.

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Categories: Animal studies
May 30, 2014