The ferret, Mustela putorius furo, was originally domesticated as a hunting animal, trained to chase rodents and rabbits out of holes since Roman times. More recently, ferrets have been trained to run cables, and can be registered as electricians’ assistants in New Zealand. But perhaps more importantly, ferrets have become important biomedical models for such diseases as influenza (including H1N1), cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, and SARS. The ferret’s respiratory disease symptoms, viral transmission, pathogenicity and immunity development closely resembles those of humans.
NIAID has funded the ferret genome project – a comprehensive genome sequencing project aimed at providing important resources to the ferret scientific community and at informing the human genome and human disease. The Broad Institute has sequenced a single female ferret to full coverage via Illumina and a BAC library is being produced from the same individual. A limited number of BACs will be sequenced to improve the genome sequence in important areas. The Broad is currently sequencing transcriptomes from a full panel of adult ferret tissues, plus developmental stages and H1N1 flu-infected adult tissues. Also, a SNP discovery project is underway, involving targeted SNP discovery in 80 diverse ferrets and full genome SNP discovery of a subset of 9 ferrets.