When most people think about agriculture, cell and molecular biology are the last things that come to mind. However, these disciplines are constantly impacting animal agriculture, and livestock species often are valuable models for biomedical research.
Today, most investigators give little thought to the interface between biochemistry, cell and molecular biology and agriculture -- much greater emphasis is placed on the biomedical relevance of research than on its relevance to animal agriculture. This likely is due to the changing demographics of the United States. At the turn of the 20th century, 43.5 percent of the U.S. work force was involved in agriculture, as compared with only 2.4 percent by the end of the century. Yet, advances in cell and molecular biology continue to impact animal agriculture, and livestock species often are valuable models for biomedical research. The following are a few examples of how cell and molecular biology interface with animal agriculture.
Recombinant DNA technology has been used to develop recombinant bovine somatotropin to enhance the efficiency of milk production.
Recombinant DNA Technology
Recombinant DNA technology has been used to generate effective vaccines and hormones for the livestock industry. For example, a polypeptide derived from the recombinant pseudo-rabies virus glycoprotein has been used for the generation of a pseudo-rabies vaccine for swine. A recombinant DNA vaccine also currently is marketed for the vaccination of horses against West Nile virus, and additional vaccines for livestock, derived from recombinant DNA technology, are being developed.
Recombinant DNA technology also led to the development and use of recombinant bovine somatotropin (bST; growth hormone) in lactating dairy cows to enhance the efficiency of milk production. Although the use of bST may be viewed as controversial, it still is a “success story” for the interface of molecular biology with animal agriculture.
Furthermore, the successful recombinant generation of several reproductive hormones, such as gonadotropins and gonadotropin-releasing hormone, has enhanced the development and efficiency of assisted reproductive technologies in livestock, including artificial insemination, estrous synchronization, in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer.