Breeding programmes

Omics technologies

A set of tools to investigate the functioning of the entire genome at the level of cells, tissues or organs.

Omics technologies are used to study the expression of (all) genes (transcriptomics), the synthesis of proteins (proteomics) and the metabolism of tissues and organ (metabolomics). The results are analyzed using bioinformatics and integrated with systems biology technologies. In 2011 we edited a book on the use of systems biology in livestock science.

Biology and environment

The application of omics technologies provides insight into the biological mechanisms underlying (production and health) traits and the physiologic effects of environmental changes (stress, pathogens, nutrition, etc.).

integrative process

This research identifies ‘biomarkers’ which can be developed into tools contributing to the development of sustainable production systems, either by management, nutrition, or breeding. Biomarkers measure the variation in the biological processes and therewith they predict the variation in the productivity traits.

What can a biomarker do for you?

The biology underlying most production traits is very complex making it difficult or costly to measure traits. Some measurements can even be done exclusively after the death of the animal. Biomarkers are able to predict such traits.

How to develop biomarkers?

Developing a biomarker is a multistep process:

Preparation phase

1. Describe in close interaction with the stakeholder the exact intention for the use of the biomarker.

2. Search for pre-existing biomarkers or potential preliminary developments for the biomarker.

3. Develop a research plan if the result of step 2 is negative.

Research phase

4. Choose an omics technology based upon the desired biomarker and start the investigation genome wide. This step aims to uncover the molecular background of the production trait.

5. Use biological samples from the animals with known productivity traits. The type of biological sample depends of the tissue in which the trait is expressed and the type of biological samples in which the biomarker test is aimed for.

6. Statistically determine the number of required biological samples.

Validation phase:

7. Determine the reliability of the biomarker.

8. This phase requires a new group of samples independent from the previously used samples. It only requires the biological sample type to be used for commercial screening in the future.

9. The biomarker test will be used to predict the production trait, after which the prediction will be compared with the real measured traits.

Implementation phase:

10. The biomarker will be integrated in the production process: in line, on site.