Goats are an important animal around the world, especially in countries such as China and India. They’re bred for meat, milk and hair - cashmere, the prized downy hair from certain species, has been collected for more than 2,500 years. Now a Chinese team have used the latest sequencing techniques to complete the first goat genome, mapping the entire genetic code of a female Yunnan black goat - a common domestic species - publishing their work in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
In particular, the scientists focused on the differences in gene activity between the two types of hair follicle in the goat’s skin - the primary follicles that make coarse hair, and the secondary follicles that make luxurious cashmere. They found differences in activity between 51 genes, including in genes making keratin proteins - the main component of hair.
The new goat genome is an important asset for researchers and livestock breeders around the world, and the scientists hope it will help lead to more effective breeding and better quality cashmere.