"The chicken genome fills a crucial gap in our scientific knowledge," says Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. The chicken genome contains significantly less DNA than the human genome but about the same number of genes, the study found.

Chickens and humans share more than half of their genes, and their DNA sequences might hold clues about the differences between birds and mammals, a study found.
"The chicken genome fills a crucial gap in our scientific knowledge," said Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in suburban Washington.

The study, which will be published in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature, found that the chicken genome contains significantly less DNA than the human genome but about the same number of genes.

Researchers estimated that the chicken has about 20,000 to 23,000 genes in its 1 billion DNA base pairs, compared with the human count of 20,000 to 25,000 genes in 2.8 billion DNA base pairs, according to a press release made available before the study's publication.

The difference in the total amount of DNA reflects a substantial reduction in DNA repeats and duplications as well as fewer pseudogenes in the chicken genome.

"By comparing the genomes of a wide range of animals, we can better understand the structure and function of human genes and, ultimately, develop new strategies to improve human health," Francis said.

Like all birds, chickens are thought to have descended from dinosaurs in the middle of the Mesozoic period and have evolved separately from mammals for about 310 million years. Chickens were first domesticated in Asia, perhaps as early as 8000 B.C.

The International Chicken Genome Sequencing Consortium analyzed the sequence of the Red Jungle Fowl, which is the progenitor of domestic chickens.

The National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, provided about 13 million dollars in funding for the project, which involved researchers from China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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