The domesticated turkey is highly vulnerable to cancer — "probably the most susceptible animal known to science," says Roger Coulombe, a veterinary scientist and toxicologist at Utah State University.
Several years ago Coulombe and his colleagues discovered that, in the process of domesticating turkeys, humans concentrated a genetic mutation that makes the birds extremely sensitive to carcinogens. The turkey genome, published in September 2010, will provide Coulombe and other researchers with a new level of detail about the offending genetic mutation and the DNA sequences that regulate it.
"There's going to be some real spinoffs for the biomedical aspect of this," Coulombe says, adding that he's looking forward to increasing the "understanding of human susceptibility to cancer using the turkey. It can teach us a lot about human disease."