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Special chip provides better picture of salmon health

How do you tell if a fish is fit and well? This is a question which has troubled farmers and biologists for years, but now scientists may have come up with the answer - using DNA chips. By studying the genes of Atlantic salmon scientists from three UK universities are developing a DNA chip to monitor the health and performance of salmon, a tool which could both save the salmon industry thousands and also help conserve dwindling wild salmon populations.

Atlantic salmon are the most important farmed fish in the UK and a disappearing species in the wild. They are particularly vulnerable to infection because of the dramatic physical and chemical changes they go through, known as smoltification, which enable them to live in both fresh and salt water. Assessing their health and performance is very difficult as conventional measures used in other animals, such as temperature, blood protein levels and general demeanour, are not relevant or are difficult to assess in fish.

Farmers and conservationists currently have to rely on the general appearance of salmon as an indicator of their health, which is far from ideal. The new DNA chip will help farmers assess the state of their stock more accurately and also enable conservationists to sample wild populations to ascertain their health and wellbeing.

The development of the chip is the culmination of a four-year study known as Salmon TRAITS (Transcription Analysis of Important Traits in Salmon) being carried out by scientists at the Universities of Stirling, Aberdeen and Cardiff, together with ARK Genomics at the Roslin Institute and researchers at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science. Funding for the project is from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's (BBSRC) Exploiting Genomics initiative.

To develop a more effective method of monitoring salmon health and performance the scientists have been studying salmon gene expression. By doing this, they have identified
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Source:Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council


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