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Identification of Hard Clams Resistant to HN Disease and Development of Diagnostic Test Methods.

Funding level:  $199,996

Project start date: 1 May 2022

Project duration:  24 Months

Project Coordinator: Roxanna Smolowitz, Roger Williams University

Participants:  Marta Gomez-Chiarri, Joshua Civetta, Cheryl James

Project Summary:

Hemocytic Neoplasia (HN) is a contagious tumours disease causing significant       mortality in Mercenaria mercenaria (hard clam) aquaculture in Massachusetts and has   been identified in hard clam stocks in other states including Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Florida. Results from yearly monitoring and recent NRAC sponsored research demonstrates that the while the disease is contagious and appears to infect all strains of hard clams, not all clams within the plot die of the disease thus there appears to be a genetic basis for resistance to the disease. Development of resistant hard clam strains and identification of genes responsible for resistance that can be used in broodstock screening is a possible solution to the devastating effects of HN in cultured hard clams thus increasing profitability in hard clam culture in areas affected by the disease. Both of these issues are addressed in this study. Diagnosis of the disease is possible by examining hemolymph and/or by histological examination. The first of these methods is only effective at identifying moderate to severe cases of the infection and the second iscostly and time consuming. In a previous study funded by NRAC, two genes were identified and quantitative PCR methods were developed. Unfortunately, neither of these genes were specific for only neoplastic cells. However at the end of the study an upregulated RNA was identified that appears to occur only in HN cells. This study will continue to develop accurate and fast molecular methods of diagnosis of the disease using an RT-qPCR method with the newly identified upregulated sequence and/or with genes and upregulated RNAs identified in this current project. The new diagnostic test methods will be made available to all labs and other individuals.


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