Sheep genome shows links between wool, health: study

Updated 08 June 2014
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Sheep genome shows links between wool, health: study

WASHINGTON: Scientists have mapped the entire genome of sheep, paving the way to improve the health of the humble farm animal for better meat and wool.
After eight years of work on the entire genetic makeup of the species, the researchers also found the secrets of the sheep’s digestive system and unique fat metabolism process that allows it to produce and maintain its thick coat.
Sheep became a species distinct from goats and other ruminants about four million years ago, with a four-compartmented stomach that can convert rich plant materials into animal protein, according to the study.
That digestive feature allows sheep to easily feed on a diet of low-quality grass and other plants.
The study published in the journal Science was the culmination of a project involving 26 institutions from eight countries that is part of the International Sheep Genomics Consortium.
Researchers hope their findings will help develop DNA tests to improve stock through accelerated breeding selection programs, and to further research to mitigate diseases affecting the animals.
“Given the importance of wool production, we focused on which genes were likely to be involved in producing wool,” said Brian Dalrymple, project leader at Australia’s national science agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
“We identified a new pathway for the metabolism of lipid in sheep skin, which may play a role in both the development of wool and in the efficient production of wool grease (lanolin).”
There are about a billion sheep around the world — including around 70 million in Australia alone. So the researchers predicted their work could have a “massive impact” for the rural economy due to the sheep service as a significant source of meat, milk and wool products.
Researchers from Australia, Britain, China, France, Denmark and New Zealand participated in the study.


Johnson & Johnson shares plunge after report on asbestos in baby powder

In this file photo taken on July 13, 2018, In this photo illustration, a container of Johnson's baby powder made by Johnson and Johnson sits on a table on in San Francisco, California. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Johnson & Johnson shares plunge after report on asbestos in baby powder

  • The controversy has long dogged the company, which has been facing a wave of several thousand court cases claiming the baby powder is causing cancer

NEW YORK: US pharmaceutical and cosmetics group Johnson & Johnson saw its shares plunge Friday after a media report alleged the group had deliberately concealed for decades that its baby powder sometimes contained asbestos.
A lengthy investigation by the Reuters news agency, which reviewed thousands of company documents, showed the company marketed talc-based products that, at least between 1971 and the beginning in the 2000s, sometimes contained asbestos.
The company’s executives, researchers, doctors and lawyers were aware but deliberately chose not to disclose this information and not to refer it to the authorities, according to the report.
Johnson & Johnson strenuously rejected the claims made in the article, calling it “one-sided, false and inflammatory.”
“Simply put, the Reuters story is an absurd conspiracy theory,” the company said in a statement. “Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free.”
J&J stock closed down more than 10 percent at $133 on the New York Stock Exchange, its worst one-day fall in 16 years.
The controversy has long dogged the company, which has been facing a wave of several thousand court cases claiming the baby powder is causing cancer.
In July, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.7 billion in damages to a group of 22 women claiming to have developed ovarian cancer following the use of the powder.
The company said Friday there were rigorous tests showing the talc did not contain the cancer-causing mineral.
In addition, “J&J has cooperated fully and openly with the US FDA and other global regulators, providing them with all the information they requested over decades.”
According to Reuters, the company also tried, unsuccessfully, to block regulations that lower the maximum level of asbestos allowed in talc-based cosmetics.