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Secrets Locked in Old Bones

14 July 2008

DUBLIN, UK - Scientists believe they have found a way to create a high-tech traceability system for the meat industry by analysing old cattle bones.

IdentiGEN has parlayed its expertise in the former area into a distinctive niche as a guarantor of quality assurance to the meat industry. According to news extract from the Scientist, July 2008 supplement, its DNA TraceBack system uses genetic signatures, based on a panel of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs), to connect a given cut of meat back to the animal from which it originated. That enables retailers and processors to authenticate their marketing claims as well as product and quality attributes.

IdentiGEN’s technology developed from academic research into the genetic distance among the world’s main cattle breads, which dates back almost two decades. “That was the beginning of genetic archaeology,” says company chairperson and cofounder Patrick Cunningham, of Trinity College Dublin, who is also chief scientific adviser to the Irish government.

His group uncovered a startling result. Previously, the domestication of cattle was thought to have occurred only once. However, the molecular clock his team devised – involving analyses of maternal mitochondrial DNA, microsatellite markers, and Y chromosomal markers passed on in the paternal line – indicated that two separate domestications of cattle occurred, in India and in the Middle East.

  • View The Scientist story by clicking here.

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