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New SNP Chip to Speed up ISA’s 500-Eggs Mission

30 September 2013, at 6:59am

NETHERLANDS - The new SNP chip, developed by ISA’s research partner Hendrix Genetics Research and Technology Centre, enables ISA to respond more quickly to fast changing demands and make its genetic selection procedures both faster and more efficient.


Dr Gerard Albers

Traditionally, genetics companies used to have a large pedigree to select superior males and females based on phenotypic data. DNA technology expanded the selection scope and allowed the use of genomic data.

Hendrix Genetics, the parent company of layer breeding company ISA, started a long time ago with using genomics in their selection programmes.

“Do not be confused,” said Dr Gerard Albers, “Genomic selection has nothing to do with artificial cutting and pasting parts of the chicken’s DNA. We try to understand the genetic characteristics of our breeding stock and scientifically combine the favourite traits by natural replication. This means that we submit our pedigree birds for a DNA evaluation to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), which capture genetic variation. As more and more SNPs have been identified from the chicken genome in recent years, the power of this technique has steadily increased.”

Hendrix Genetics made the first start to use SNP chips for DNA evaluation of breeding animals for genomic selection in their ISA layer programme in 2009. Meanwhile genomic selection has become an integral part of their breeding programme.

“Up till today, tens of thousands chickens have been genotyped, by means of 60,000 markers that explain genetic variation. This allows us to be more efficient in estimating the genetic value of the next generations of chickens”, said Dr Albers.

Speeding up selection

Earlier this year, Hendrix Genetics introduced a new 'medium density SNP chip', which will replace the previous chip. This new chip also harbors 60.000 SNP markers. It is custom-made for ISA and will, in contrary to the old SNP-chip that was offered to the scientific community, not be available to third parties.

The main advantage of this chip is that it is more suited to the specific genetic make-up of the genetics of ISA chickens. All chickens in the genomic selection programme will now be genotyped with this new chip, which will significantly improve the accuracy of understanding the chicken genome. The new chip is as much as up to 50 per cent better than the old chip and it will allow the Company to better identify genetic variations within a flock and select birds that have the specific traits the industry is looking for.

Here, ISA is not restricted to the traditional traits like egg numbers, egg size, feed conversion ratio and daily gain. Now, it also can select for issues like social ability, leg weakness, keel bone strength, susceptibility to specific diseases, and so on.

The new chip can be compared to an update of your satellite navigation system: new points of interest have been added, which increases the available amount of genomic information, providing new and more accurate genetic information that is needed for breeding the next generation of world-class animals.


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"Genomic selection has nothing to do with artificial cutting and pasting parts of the chicken’s DNA."
Dr Gerard Albers

Breeding for 500 Eggs

“Four years after the first SNP chip was introduced, the new SNP chip was developed, to make better use of state-of-the-art technology in our breeding operation”, says Dr Albers.

The first results received from evaluating the first batch of 576 samples are very good. The performance, accuracy and informativeness of the new SNP chip has increased by 25 to 33 per cent, depending on the genetic line tested.

“These are stimulating results and allow us to speed up our mission to deliver chickens that are capable of laying 500 first quality eggs per hen housed at 100 weeks of age. Furthermore, we now may be able to quicker and more efficiently respond to changing demands in different markets around the globe,” concluded Dr Albers.