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UK Team Develops Genetic Map for Plant Used In Malaria Treatment

Researchers from the University of York reported in Science online today that they have created the first genetic map for the medicinal herb Artemisia annua, which contains an extract called artemisinin that's used to help treat some forms of malaria.

Through deep sequencing of a hybrid plant's transcriptome and pedigree experiments, the team found genetic variants that they used to develop an A. annua genetic map. By combining these newly developed genetic resources with field trials, the researchers have also started finding genetic markers expected to speed up selective breeding efforts aimed at improving artemisinin production.

"With our new understanding of Artemisia genetics, we can produce improved, non-[genetically modified] varieties of Artemisia much faster than would otherwise be possible," lead author Ian Graham, a biologist at the University of York's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, said in a statement.

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